Top 3 Developments
May’s Indian visa worries: Theresa May made her first visit to India as PM to discuss post-Brexit trade deals. However, conversation quickly turned to visas, with the Indian Government wanting the UK to grant more to skilled Indian workers and Indian students. This shows that May is going to go country by country and sector by sector in terms of post-Brexit trade deals and international relationships for the UK.
Scotland will head to court: Nicola Sturgeon has announced that Scotland will try to intervene in the legal case that is to be taken to the Supreme Court in regards to the triggering of Article 50. This is due to her ongoing feeling that devolved administrations need to be consulted before Article 50 is triggered.
Trump got hired: Donald Trump has been elected as the 45th president of the United States. Following comments in the election campaign, it is thought that he will be open to engaging in trade deals with the UK when we officially leave the EU and could impact on the UK’s position as a bridge with Europe.
Sharing (with devolved Ministers) is caring
The Brexit Secretary David Davis shared analysis undertaken by his Department prior to the first meeting of the EU Negotiation Joint Ministerial Committee. The Committee, which met for the first time yesterday, consists of the British Government and the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Following criticism from some of the devolved governments, primarily the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, that there was a lack of consultation and consideration of their views, Davis’ sharing of information and consideration of analysis brought to the meeting by the devolved governments can be seen as a slight softening of the Government’s position.
Following the High Court’s ruling last week, the devolved nations have signalled their desire to intervene in the case when it is heard in the Supreme Court in December. Sturgeon has confirmed that Scotland’s Lord Advocate will lodge a formal application to intervene in the case, with the Welsh Government also declaring its desire to intervene. In Northern Ireland there are also groups arguing that the assembly in Stormont should be consulted and they may also join the Supreme Court case.
Labour’s Brexit Confusion
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was forced to clarify Labour’s position on whether his party would vote to block the triggering of Article 50 following contradictory messages from himself and the Deputy Leader, Tom Watson.
Following an interview with the Sunday Mirror in which Corbyn suggested that membership of the EU’s single market would be a red line for his party and his MPs would vote against the triggering of Article 50 if this was not conceded, Watson was forced to clarify this position by stating that Labour MPs would not block it. Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer subsequently confirmed Watson’s statement, but added that the party would need details of the Government’s Brexit plan before giving their support.
This saga highlights the ongoing challenges that the Labour Party are having when attempting to scrutinise and hold the Government to account.
May reiterates opposition to early election
The Prime Minister has again stated that she will not hold an early general election and that the next election will take place in 2020. However, rumours of a change of position still persist with the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt hinting that a Parliamentary vote to block the triggering of Article 50 could result in an early poll.
Fast – Track Brexit
There is suggestion that if the government loses the Supreme Court appeal, the result of which would mean that MPs must vote to trigger formal talks to leave the EU, the Prime Minister will present parliament with a resolution rather than a bill. This means that the resolution could pass through Parliament in a day, therefore fast-tracking parliamentary approval.
Donald worried about Donald
EU leaders congratulated the President-elect on his victory, but were all very distant in their welcoming due to concerns on trade, defence and Trump’s support for Brexit. Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker told the press that the result ‘brought uncertainty’ to transatlantic relations and invited Trump to an EU-US summit to discuss US policy towards Europe in the next few years.
The immediate concern is the controversial EU-US trade deal, TTIP. Trump said such deals hurt American workers and his protectionist rhetoric could mean the deal is off. Brussels was keen to get it completed before January, but will not be signed with so many parts unresolved. A new trade representative from the USA is expected to be in appointed in April and Trump has yet to spell out his vision for American-European relations.
At Member State level, the German Foreign Minister said “it wasn’t the result we wanted” and called for an emergency summit in Brussels. Eastern European Governments are concerned the Americans will be less inclined to challenge Russian aggression or guarantee their security.
In France, the election of a right-wing populist underdog defying the establishment has shortened the odds of Marine Le Pen becoming President, but the French system makes this unlikely. None of the three parties will win outright, and in the event of a run off against the Republicans, left wing Socialist voters will vote against the National Front, as they did with Le Pen’s father in 2002. However, it is not only France that could see such a ‘revolution’ with ‘Trump-style’ campaigns expected in the upcoming Austrian, Dutch and German elections.
Labouring into Europe
A delegation of British Labour MPs travelled to Brussels this week to “shape the debate” on Brexit. The delegation, led by Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer and former Shadow Europe Minister Emma Reynolds MP, is hoping to gain left-leaning allies in Europe to ensure issues like working rights are still in place.
Labour worked hard to ensure the media knew about this trip as they are keen to seize some of the initiative back (Labour has struggled for media attention recently) in order to ‘prevent a Tory Brexit’.
EU growth forecasts slashed
The European Commission has slashed its economic growth forecast (or “continue at a moderate pace” in their words), citing uncertainty caused by Brexit and a Trump presidency. The EU will grow by 1.6% in 2017 and the Euro area by 1.7%, which is a serious downward revision from the Commissions previous estimates.
Announcing the new forecasts, the Commission reflected on a turbulent year where “We need to address that distance between the ones that are governed and their governments that we have as a model of Western democracy”, a theme that will be explored at the upcoming meeting of all the EU member states minus Britain.
- 23 November Chancellor to give the Autumn Statement
- 5 December Article 50 ruling appeal starts
- 15 December Next EU Council Summit
- March 2017 Article 50 to be triggered