WHAM, BAM, WAB
After three and half years of parliamentary gridlock, multiple resignations, sackings, the beginning and end of Change UK (aka The Independent Group for Change, The Independent Group, ForChange_Now, and The Remain Alliance) and two historic general elections, Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal has become law having cleared all its stages in parliament and received royal assent from the Queen.
In Brussels, European Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen today signed the withdrawal deal. The European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee granted its consent to the withdrawal deal yesterday, and all MEPs in the European Parliament are set to approve the agreement on Wednesday.
The UK will then cease its 47-year membership of the EU, although EU law will remain applicable to the UK during an 11-month transition period ending on 31 December 2020. If, the European Parliament were to deny consent, the UK would leave the EU without a deal on 1 February 2020, absent another extension of the Article 50 period.
PUTTING A STAMP ON BREXIT
Boris Johnson has made a “formal request” to the Royal Mail for a set of commemorative stamps to be produced marking Britain’s departure from the EU following a long-running Sun campaign. Talks between No. 10 and Royal Mail bosses are suggested to have been very positive, with early discussions indicating that the stamps would be ready to go on sale in January 2021, to mark the end of the 11-month-long Brexit transition period. Blue passports, a commemorative 50p coin… and now a stamp. The nation awaits the announcement with bated breath.
Shortly after the granting of royal assent to the Brexit bill was announced, the SNP leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, used a point of order to say that the country was now facing a “constitutional crisis”. He told MPs:
“We are faced with a situation which is completely unprecedented, when the government in Edinburgh, in Belfast and in Cardiff has not given consent to this act of parliament. And this completely contravenes the devolution settlement [Sewel Convention] that made it clear that the consent of the devolved administrations had to be given in bills of parliament to become acts of parliament that involve the devolved administrations.”
The SNP leader in Westminster’s reference to a “constitutional crisis” may sound somewhat hyperbolic. If there is a crisis, most MPs did not seem to notice. But a crisis can sometimes lurk in the background, and Blackford is right to say that Brexit has unleashed forces that could have a profound impact on the future of the union.
COMING TO AMERICA
Boris Johnson will fly to Washington next month to kick off post-Brexit trade talks with Donald Trump. The Prime Minister has tasked negotiators to begin US trade talks in parallel with EU discussions as he seeks to stamp his authority on the critical next phase of Brexit, but the UK Chancellor Sajid Javid, said this week that talks with the EU would come first, prompting US Trade Secretary Steven Mnuchin to say he was a “little disappointed” that US talks wouldn’t be prioritised.
Downing Street said the prime minister had told officials to start discussions with countries including the US, Japan, New Zealand and Australia as soon as the UK leaves the bloc on 31 January.
Boris Johnson has committed to scrap the £30,000 minimum salary threshold for immigrants arriving after Brexit under his plans for an Australian-style points system. Under the Prime Minister’s plan, migrants’ earnings will be considered as part of their application to enter the UK. Other criteria could include English proficiency, educational qualifications, occupation and willingness to work in particular areas of Britain. The Migration Advisory Committee, an independent body, will publish a report next week on how the new points-based system would work in practice and the government is then expected to publish its white paper in March. The aim is for the system to be introduced immediately at the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.