Top 3 developments
- The Government has published five new Brexit policy position papers this week – all of which seek a significant degree of continuity with the current UK-EU relationship.
- Reports suggest the UK’s policy papers have not been favourably received in Brussels, with EU diplomats regarding them as a distraction tactic; as such, it looks increasingly likely that discussions on the future UK-EU trade relationship will be delayed.
- The Scottish and Welsh First Ministers have met to coordinate opposition to the Government’s EU Withdrawal bill, in an attempt to ensure that some EU powers are repatriated directly to the devolved nations, and that Brexit does not undermine devolution.
Davis continues to publish Brexit papers
There is a continuing theme in the series of Brexit policy position papers published by the Government this week – let’s try and keep everything the same, whilst also giving us control over our borders, and let’s stay away from the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The papers highlight, at great length, the importance of maintaining the mutually beneficial parts of the UK’s relationships with the EU, and reminds Brussels that the remaining EU states will also lose out if there is no post-Brexit agreement.
The papers cover:
- Post-Brexit governance of any UK-EU agreements: The paper outlined alternative models which would enable the ECJ to have jurisdiction over the agreement without, however, being able to directly influence UK law.
- Cross-border judicial cooperation: Suggesting a broad set of principles for settling current and future court cases.
- Data protection: One of the more devolved papers which highlights the needs for maintaining post-Brexit data flows, and also advocates for the continuous role of the ICO in future EU discussions.
- Trade in goods: The paper sets out a system of mutual acceptance of regulatory and product standards, and suggests that the UK might follow future EU-regulation more closely than some Brexit supporters might have expected.
- Confidentiality: The most straightforward paper which suggests that neither the EU nor the UK should leak confidential information about one another after Brexit.
“I’ve got [half] my eye on EU!”
Justice Minister Dominic Raab has said that the UK will have to keep “half an eye” on ECJ rulings after the UK leaves the European Union. Raab dismissed the idea that the Government’s proposals for the ECJ to have “indirect” jurisdiction over the UK would allow the ECJ to exercise influence over British laws. He also denied that an arbitration panel would essentially be a clone of the ECJ in all but name. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Raab said “there will be divergence between the case law of the EU and the UK. It is precisely because there will be that divergence as we take back control that it makes sense for the UK to keep half an eye on the case law of the EU, and for the EU to keep half an eye on the case law for the UK”.
Meanwhile, Theresa May has come under fire following the Government’s publication of its plans for UK-EU judicial arrangements post-Brexit. Critics have accused the Prime Minister of backtracking on her oft-cited promise to “take back control of British laws”. Pro-EU campaign group Open Britain said the plan is a “climbdown camouflaged in jingoistic rhetoric”. Without doubt, the paper offers a notable shift in tone away from the hard-line rhetoric of her Lancaster House speech, during which May was clear that “leaving the European Union will mean that our laws will be made in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. And those laws will be interpreted by judges not in Luxembourg but in courts across this country”.
Power Rangers Devolved Leaders: UNITE
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones met on Tuesday to discuss the repatriation of powers to the devolved administrations after Brexit. The leaders agreed to work together to pass amendments to the EU withdrawal bill which would allow powers currently held by the EU to be passed straight to the devolved nations. In a joint statement after their meeting in Edinburgh, Sturgeon and Jones said, “we believe that the [Withdrawal] bill must not be allowed to progress in its current form”. The UK Government have insisted that repatriated powers should initially be transferred to Westminster (and then passed on to the devolved governments at a later date), in order to ensure that the “logistics of Brexit run smoothly”. However, leaders of the devolved governments have labelled this an attempted “power grab” – an accusation repeatedly dismissed by the Prime Minister.
EU’re flying without wings
British airports have jointly urged the Government to strike a Brexit deal on flights between the UK and EU before Spring 2018. The owners of Manchester, Stansted, Heathrow, Gatwick and London City joined forces to submit a report to ministers outlining that passenger numbers are likely to be hit hard – even if flights themselves are not interrupted – if early assurances are not given. “Tickets will soon go on sale for flights in a post-Brexit world and both airlines and passengers need assurance from the EU and UK government to enable them to plan for the future”, the report reads. The document finds that almost half of passengers booking in the year ahead were likely to change their travel plans if there was any doubt over the status of flights.
EU migration falls
The latest immigration figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today reveal that net migration has fallen to the lowest level for three years. Net migration fell by 81,000 to 246,000 in the year to March 2017. Over half of the fall is down to a decrease in the number of EU citizens coming to the UK. The number of EU citizens emigrating from the UK has increased by 31,000 to 122,000 in the last year – resulting in a 51,000 decrease in net EU migration.
Negotiations look set to stall
According to Politico, three senior diplomatic officials have said that Britain must provide clarity on the final Brexit divorce bill, or else discussions will not progress in next week’s Brexit talks. Brussels is expecting Brexit Secretary David Davis to attend next week’s talks with details on which obligations in the EU budget the UK is willing to pay for. Meanwhile, reports have emerged that Davis will refuse to reveal any details about the UK’s position on the divorce settlement when talks resume next week, in a move which is certain to increase tension with Brussels. According to The Guardian, officials have said disclosing the UK’s view on its financial obligations would be like “turning up half your cards”. Instead, British officials will subject their EU counterparts to “a barrage” of legal arguments contesting the UK’s liability for the divorce bill.
Ministers had hoped that the series of papers released over the last two weeks would put pressure on Brussels, and demonstrate that the UK has made “sufficient progress” on negotiations to move on to talks about future trade arrangements. However, Brussels is said to regard them as a distraction tactic, with Michel Barnier insisting that more progress needs to be made on citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the divorce bill. Barnier tweeted; “hopefully we can make fast progress on the three areas because once we have reached sufficient progress there, we can move on to the second stage”. European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein reiterated these sentiments, saying the papers will not change the framework or timeline drawn up by Barnier; he said, “there is a very clear structure in place, set by the EU27, about how these talks should be sequenced”. The Prime Minister has dismissed such concerns, saying she is “confident” that Brexit talks will move on to trade by October.
Brussels boos May’s Brexit proposals ahead of talks next week
EU diplomats met in Brussels today to discuss the proposals put forward by the UK ahead of the next round of Brexit talks next week. European diplomats were briefed by Stéphanie Riso, a senior member of the EU’s Brexit negotiating team, on the progress made so far and the bloc’s reaction to the UK’s position papers. The UK’s proposals on the customs union and Irish border problems are reported to have found little favour in Brussels, with one European official calling the proposals “a fairy tale”. The papers have also been widely critiqued for attempting to cherry-pick the benefits of being in the EU Customs Union, whilst avoiding the obligations of being a full-EU member state.
- 28th August – Third round of Brexit negotiation talks
- 4th September – Parliamentary recess ends
- 7th – 11th September – EU (Withdrawal) Bill Second Reading
- 18th September – Expected start of fourth round of Brexit negotiation talks
- 24th – 27th September – Labour Party Conference
- 1st – 4th October – Conservative Party Conference
- 9th October – Expected start of fifth round of Brexit negotiation talks
- 19th October – EU Summit