Brexit 5: A different Ping Pong game

EU rejects Boris Johnson’s request to withdraw the Backstop

In a letter sent this week to European Council President, Donald Tusk,  Boris Johnson PM asked Brussels to reconsider the issue of the Irish backstop, presenting three reasons why this clause in the Withdrawal Agreement is simply “unviable” and why another solution needs to be found. Stating that the Withdrawal Agreement in its current form failed to get parliamentary approval three times, the Prime Minister sought to persuade EU leaders to agree to an alternative in order to secure a deal in time for the 31st October Brexit deadline.

Brussels did not take long to respond to the Prime Minister’s letter, with Donald Tusk tweeting that “those against the backstop are not proposing realistic alternatives, in fact support re-establishing a border. Even if they do not admit it.” Tusk reaffirmed his position that the backstop is a necessary insurance to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Boris Johnson meets Macron and Merkel

Boris Johnson met this week two European leaders to find a solution to the Irish backstop issue preventing a deal passing through the House of Commons. German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested the UK could find a solution to the Irish border issue in 30 days but made clear that it is for the UK to propose this to shape the future relationship. Materially, the Withdrawal Agreement as negotiated by the Prime Minister still stands. In a meeting with President Macron in Paris, the Prime Minister insisted that the backstop must be abandoned to prevent a no-deal Brexit, but the French President noted that the backstop plan was an ‘indispensable guarantee’ to preserving political stability and the single market, which UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he agreed is fundamental. Prime Minister Johnson emphasised that the UK would ‘under no circumstances’ put checks or controls on the UK-Ireland border but that it was vital for trust in politics that the UK leaves the EU on 31st October (“not” Mea Culpa).

Corbyn is still trying…

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, is continuing to keep himself visible in the Brexit story by calling for a cross-party meeting of senior politicians. He has urged other parties to work alongside him and the Labour Party to ‘do everything we can to stop’ a no-deal Brexit. The meeting is scheduled for the 27th August and is intended to help clarify the opposition parties’ position on how to approach preventing a no-deal Brexit using parliamentary processes.

In his invitation, Jeremy Corbyn reiterated that the country is “heading into a constitutional and political storm, so it is vital that we meet urgently, before Parliament returns”. The invitation was initially met with a lukewarm response from leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, who has now agreed, alongside Anna Soubry from ChangeUK and Ian Blackford from the Scottish National Party accepting it.

No-deal Government customs system auto-enrolment

The UK Government informed that it will begin automatically enrolling UK firms in a customs system as it continues to prepare for a potential no-deal Brexit. This will enable UK firms to continue to trade with EU member states after Brexit and was urged by business trade groups after many firms failed to register for the system. The CBI has indicated that it was a ‘sensible move’ but one of many things needed in the event of no deal. HMRC (Revenue and Customs) has stated that all VAT-registered firms in the UK which have not already signed up to the customs system will receive an ID number within the next two weeks. The Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number will enable firms to continue to trade with customers and suppliers in the EU after 31st October. 72,000 companies had until now registered for an EORI number, but the auto-enrolment will mean 88,000 more will now be registered. The Chancellor, Sajid Javid, has indicated that the move will help to ease the flow of goods at border points and support businesses to trade and grow.

£10.7 million to help ease Brexit traffic flows

Michael Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal planning, stated that the UK Government will do all it can to ensure traffic flows through ports after Brexit. On a visit to Holyhead, Gove dismissed leaked Whitehall documents that predict chaos and challenges as being out of date, and that the new administration is taking steps to ensure the UK is ‘properly prepared’ for Brexit on 31st October. In order to assist with preparations, port towns in England have been allocated an additional £9 million, and a further £1.7 million in funding has been shared between Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Kent Council will receive over £2.6 million to deal with the pressures around the Port of Dover, and all local authorities will have their own local resilience plan and decide what is appropriate. The Welsh Government has stated that the funding is too little, too late, but that it has worked with local authorities and port and ferry operators over the past twelve months to put in place robust contingency plans to reduce potential disruption.

The Whitehouse team are experts in the potential impact of Brexit, providing political consultancy and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the member states of the European Union. More information about our Brexit experience can be found here, or, if you have any questions, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at