Brexit Takes a Break
For the first time since the referendum result, all is quiet on the Brexit front. As the Prime Minister holidays in Wales and Parliament breaks for recess, Whitehall is enjoying a rare moment of quiet. It will be short-lived however, as Parliament resumes on Tuesday and European officials convene later this month to approve the EU’s negotiating mandate.
Unbrexpected Interference in Voter Registration Site
MPs on the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) have raised concerns that the malfunctioning of the Government’s voter registration website may have been a result of foreign state interference. The website crashed two hours before the registration deadline, ultimately forcing Ministers to extend the deadline by 48 hours. In the immediate aftermath Ministers blamed the crash on an unprecedented spike in demand, with over 500,000 people trying to register on the final day. However, the report published by the PACAC claims there is evidence of distributed denial of service attack (DDOS) attacks on Government servers – which would explain the overwhelming volume of traffic. Although the immediate impact of the crash is negligible, it is thought that website’s failure could have dissuaded some voters from registering. The committee has not accused any particular state, but it did note that “Russia and China use a cognitive approach based on understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals”.
Full Steam Ahead with Council Brexit Guidelines
The draft negotiating guidelines put forward by European Council President Donald Tusk look set to receive approval from the remaining 27 member states. The guidelines, circulated two days after Theresa May triggered Article 50 last month, set out a tough opening stance towards the UK. The formal text of the negotiating mandate is set to be discussed in Brussels on Tuesday, however the draft is said to already have broad agreement amongst the EU-27.
UK Economy Beginning a post-Brexit Slump
Recent figures suggest that the UK economy’s post-Brexit surge is coming to an end. The economy continued to perform strongly until the end of 2016, which led many to confound pessimistic Brexit predictions. However, a housing market slowdown, drop in industrial output, and the construction industry’s weakest performance for a year, indicates that the economy is beginning to slump. Economists put the slowdown in large part down to the falling value of the pound (which remains 17% down on its pre-referendum level). This makes imported materials and fuels more expensive. Rising inflation is also dissuading consumers from spending as freely as they have in the ten months since the referendum result.
Lack of Skills Won’t Pay the Bills
Hard-line pro-Leave campaign group ‘Leave Means Leave’ has called on the Government to introduce strict immigration measures to reduce net migration from its current level of 273,000 per year, to 50,000. The group, which is backed by senior Tory backbenchers, has said that work visas should be limited to those earning at least £35,000 a year. The group’s plan, which was put together by former UKIP MEP Steven Woolfe, also says there should be a five year freeze on the number of unskilled migrants moving to the UK. The group’s demands have been heavily criticised by anti-Bexit campaigners who say the policies would have a detrimental effect on the NHS and businesses.
Brexit is the Key to Theresa’s Heart
The Prime Minister has been criticised by some of the UK’s biggest companies for neglecting the UK’s business sector. Speaking to the FT, one FTSE boss said the PM is “completely preoccupied” by Brexit, and that it’s not clear whether she has the “bandwidth” to deal with anything else. May’s team has admitted that the Prime Minister has chosen “a different way” to her predecessor – who was renowned for hosting regular meeting with industry leaders – but denies that she has closed herself off.
Theresa May to Meet European Parliament President
Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, is to meet with Theresa May in London on 20th April. The two will be discussing the Brexit negotiating guidelines passed by the Parliament last week. Tajani said, ”defending the rights of our citizens is our first priority”.
- 18th April – Parliamentary recess ends.
- 20th April – European Parliament President Antonio Tajani to meet Theresa May
- 23rd April – First Round of French Presidential Elections.
- 29th April – EU Brexit Summit.
- 17th May – likely date of Queen’s Speech.
- 22nd May – European Governments set to approve final negotiating directives.