Brexit Weekly: 5 Things

Four months and twenty days to go

Since the last failed attempt by the UK and the EU to reach an agreement during last October’s EU Summit (the third one since the talks started, but who’s counting) all hopes were put on an extraordinary summit supposed to take place in November.

Expectations were high following rumors during the past week of an impending agreement that would mean the end of the deadlock that the Brexit negotiations have become, but these hopes faded away as fast as they were raised as the November summit to seal a Brexit deal now unlikely to take place. So, what’s next and should we expect a no deal Brexit?

With little over 4 months to go until B day, all bets are now on the December Summit, the last one before the UK leaves the EU. A deal would be a nice early Christmas present for those who have been negotiating for what seems like an eternity.

Business leaders back Peoples Vote’s demand for a final say

Over 70 business leaders have joined, on a personal capacity, the ranks of those relentless souls that demand a ‘final say’ referendum on the closing terms of the agreement between the UK and the EU. ‘Business for a People’s Vote’ launched on Thursday with an open letter in which signatories such as Waterstones Chief Executive James Daunt, former Marks & Spencer Chairman Lord Myners and Cobra Beer founder Lord Bilimoria expressed their views that both the current UK Government plans for Brexit and plans for a ‘no-deal’ scenario would leave the UK in a worse situation than remaining inside the EU.

The UK Government seemed unimpressed with this letter though, with a spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union sticking to the UK Government mantra that the voters have already had their say in a democratic referendum and denied any possibility for a second one.

It was never about the backstop

There were some rumors this week of the EU willingness to offer an Irish border compromise to the UK to save the Brexit talks. This would entail a “review mechanism” by which the UK could end a temporary customs arrangement with the bloc. Ireland seems to be willing to get on board with the idea, with the caveat that the UK should not be able to unilaterally leave the deal.
But don’t go out and celebrate just yet, as former Minister Steve Baker has declared that Eurosceptic Conservative MPs would still vote against the deal as “in the end, it’s not really about the backstop”. The view of Mr Baker and other Conservative MPs is that the apparent row regarding the backstop has been a strategy to have an “orchestrated breakthrough”.

European Commission Autumn Growth predictions

The European Commission released its Autumn 2018 Economic Forecast Predictions of growth for all Member States for the next two years with the UK expected to be the country with the weakest. The data shows that the UK growth this year will be 1.3 per cent compared to 1.7 per cent in 2017. This will go down again during 2019 to 1.2 per cent and stay that way in 2020. The Commission emphasised that its predictions are based on a “benign” scenario of uninterrupted trade between the UK and the EU after Brexit adding that a chaotic withdrawal would pull these numbers down.

These figures slightly differ from those provided by the UK Office for Budget Responsibility that predicts a 1.6 per cent growth for 2019, followed by a 1.4 per cent growth in 2020. Who is playing with the numbers? Only time will tell.

On a more personal note

Yesterday, the UK Environment Agency kindly sent me a text to inform me that I live in an area at risk of flooding and that, in the event a of flood warning, I will receive a call or text to let me know. What a great service I thought, only to find out hours later that 400 Environment Agency and Natural England staff are being redeployed to work on Brexit. Would this impact on their capacity to call me in the event of floods?

I am not the only one worried about this shift in resources though, and some have less selfish reasons than mine for concern. Mary Creagh, the Labour MP who chairs the Environmental Audit Committee, warned that preparing for Brexit “must not get in the way of protecting our treasured natural spaces and iconic British wildlife”. Fifty of the staff reallocated have pulled from Natural England, the body that oversees wildlife habitats and sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) and some are worried that this will mean that some areas of work will be put on hold. In response to these concerns, Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, insisted that monitoring of SSSIs had been undertaken by other staff.

If you have any questions on how Brexit may impact your business, get in touch!