Brexit Update 18th May 2017

By June 2, 2017Brexit Updates

Top 3 developments

Rise of the Re-Leavers: A YouGov poll found that 23% of the population are ‘re-leavers’ – those who backed remain but now support the Government implementing Brexit.

EU must work with us: European Commission Brexit chief Michel Barnier called on the Prime Minister to work with, rather than against, the bloc when negotiating the UK’s withdrawal.

Freshly squeezed: The Office for National Statistics found that UK workers are facing a fresh squeeze on wages, with wage growth lagging behind inflation.

UK Update

Knowing me, knowing EU, it’s the best we can do

So-called ‘remoaners’ across the UK have reportedly resigned themselves to Brexit, with a YouGov poll marking a split within what was once the remain camp. The poll found that the UK population now falls into the following three camps: 45% are hard leavers, 22% are hard remainers, and 23% belong to a category known as ‘re-leavers’ – those who supported remain in the referendum but believe the Government has a duty to carry out the result of the referendum (with 9% stating they ‘don’t know’). Interestingly, 44% of those surveyed in a separate poll demonstrated faith in May’s negotiation abilities, regarding her as the best-equipped to deliver “the right deal for Britain”.

Money, money, money

A new report found that workers are facing the worst decade for pay in over 70 years. That Britons will earn no more in 2021 than they did in 2008 (yes, the year of the crash) is old news, but the specifics are new, and make for grim reading. The Office for National Statistics released figures showing that wage growth is currently lagging behind inflation for the first time since 2014, with the Bank of England warning of a real pay loss of almost £1000 for the average worker, citing Brexit as the main cause. Whilst the employment rate may hover at a record level of 74.8%, quality of work is questionable, and pay languishes.

European Update

Landmark ruling from European Court of Justice changes, well, not very much

The ruling declares that the EU only has to seek ratification on trade deals from the EU’s 38 national and regional parliaments if the deal touches on two specific issues: portfolio investments, and dispute-settlement regimes for investments. On the surface, this bodes well for the UK as it clearly limits the role of regional and national parliaments in the negotiation of a post-Brexit trade (and some parliaments, e.g. the Belgian ones in relation to the CETA deal, do have form in this area). However, it is highly likely that an EU-UK trade deal will touch on portfolio investments or dispute-settlement for investments and unfortunately there is little that can be done to stop regional parliaments from leveraging their veto power on dispute-settlement to achieve changes in other areas of a deal. This is an interesting ruling and depending on your interpretation, Brexit just got a little bit easier or continues to be as tricky as before.

Barnier and the ‘bloody difficult woman’

Barnier has appealed to May to work collaboratively with the EU on Brexit negotiations. How May’s party responds to this remains to be seen; the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Davis appears to have taken pride in his apparent lack of friends in Brussels, telling the Telegraph “they want me sacked… If they don’t want me across the table, there is a reason for that (because) it’s in Britain’s interests, not theirs.” Barnier addressed MEPs in Strasbourg, declaring “I certainly don’t intend to have no deal or a bad deal. We want to conclude a deal with the UK, not against the UK. In fact, I would very much appreciate that on the UK side you could find the same spirit to reach a deal with the EU, not against the EU.” He expressed a hope to start stable (“strong and stable”?) negotiations the day after the general election. “The clock is ticking”, he reminded the MEPs; “there is not much time ahead of us.”

No platitudes at the plenary – just a pragmatic set of Brexit guidelines

The plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasborg on EU Brexit guidelines saw the MEPs conclude the following:

  • Transitional arrangements should be time-limited to three years and must be enforced by the EU’s Court of Justice.
  • UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in Britain should receive “reciprocal” treatment – this puts the kibosh on May’s talk of absolute border control.
  • The final deal should not include a “trade-off” between trade and security co-operation – again, this rather undercuts some of May’s previous manoeuvres.
  • The UK should adhere to EU environmental and anti-tax evasion standards in order to establish closer trade ties. This will raise some eyebrows within the Conservative party – MEP Daniel Hannan and many of his allies have called for the UK to emulate a low-tax, low-regulation, Singapore-style economy.
  • The European Banking Authority and European Medicines Agency should be moved out of London – the former, coupled with the exodus of banks facing the loss of passporting rights, would prove a real blow to the UK’s financial industry, should it come to pass.
  • The UK should pay towards costs for the EU that “arise directly from its withdrawal”.

Timeline

  • 22nd May – European Governments set to approve final negotiating directives.
  • 31st May – Irish High Court begins hearing case on revocability of Article 50
  • 8th June – UK General Election.
  • 13th June – Parliament reconvenes.
  • 19th June – State Opening of Parliament.