Brexit Weekly: 5 Things

98 days until B-Day

On the 98th day til Brexit our Government gave to us…

Not an inkling of what post-Brexit Britain will look like.

Although a lot has happened, the only notable Brexit developments in the week marking the start of the 100 day count down to B-Day include amending no-deal preparation advice to the public so that it no longer says a no-deal Brexit is ‘unlikely’; and the Government setting a date for the Prime Minister’s deal to be debated and voted on in Parliament: debating will resume on 9 January with a vote on 14 January. This came after the flap and flurry of Labour tabling a motion of no confidence in Theresa May, which she refused to put into the parliamentary timetable. The motion was then backed by the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens who amended it to a no confidence motion in the whole government, to both force the issue and embarrass Labour, only for Labour to then withdraw the motion as a date was set. The drama.

Santa to be denied visa from 2021

The long-awaited Immigration white paper has been published this week to criticism from just about everyone. Although Home Secretary Sajid Javid refuses to commit to the PM’s pet project of reducing net immigration to tens of thousands, his paper does still intend to slash immigration significantly, particularly of low-and unskilled workers. It scraps the cap on the number of skilled workers but puts a £30,000 annual salary requirement on those seeking five-year visas. As a transition measure, it gives citizens of ‘low-risk’ countries from the EU and beyond access to a one-year visa to look for work.

NHS Providers Deputy Chief Saffron Cordery protested that “high skills does not equal high pay” and nurses – which the UK has in worryingly short supply – are predominantly foreign born and crucially are not paid the £30,000 threshold . The voice of British business – the CBI – says that implementing the Paper would be “a sucker punch” to organisations across the country. Even the Government is not in agreement, with the delay to the paper’s publication being due to opposition from Business Secretary Greg Clark and Chancellor Philip Hammond.

The paper means fewer nurses, shop assistants, agricultural workers, and even Christmas presents as Santa (foreigner paid in mince pies) will be denied entry from 2021 when the paper comes into force.

No-deal planning ramped up by all sides

Both the EU and the UK are yet again ramping up no-deal planning, with the UK Government releasing £2 billion of its no-deal contingency funding to Whitehall. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said such preparations are now an ‘operational priority’ but also reasserted the Government’s commitment to securing a deal. It is, of course, the rest of Parliament who are not convinced, but with the vote on the deal now so close to B-day, they will be aware they’re effectively voting for May’s deal or no deal.

A week before Christmas, the European Commission has provided the present of a no deal Contingency Action Plan for the sectors most affected by Brexit, including financial services, air transport, customs, and climate policy. This includes a temporary and conditional continuation of rights for capital flows; efforts to ensure flights are not grounded; and for freight to not need permits for nine months.

Unions rebuke People’s Vote

The General Secretary of the UK’s largest trade union, Unite has stressed his opposition to a second referendum in the New Statesman this week. While acknowledging the ‘national agony’ that the Government has turned Brexit into, Len McCluskey consistently sticks to his line against the ‘metropolitan moralising’ such a referendum would entail, as well as highlighting the risk of it ‘tearing our society apart’. This line is supported by the public sector trade union Unison which has also rejected a second vote but instead calls for a workers’ Brexit. Another large but more centrist-leaning union, the GMB, is backing a ‘People’s Vote,’ which raises the question of what the first vote was.

Troops on standby

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson published an underwhelming strategy for the MoD this week but managed to get some time in the spotlight by announcing that 3,500 Armed Forces personnel are on standby to handle no-deal Brexit unrest and to support any government department on ‘contingencies’ in the UK. But Williamson’s big Christmas performance came when, not Brexit, but a mischievous drone prompted the deployment of the Armed Forces on British soil and grounded hundreds of flights. The drone, whose owner is still unknown, brought Gatwick, one of the UK’s largest airports, to a complete standstill for over 24 hours in one of its busiest weeks of the year. Who needs adversaries when we can cause this much havoc all by ourselves?

Merry Brexmas everyone.