A week is a long time in (Brexit) politics…pt. 100000

A “limited and specific” breach of international law

The week began with a leaked document in the press which suggested that the UK would renege elements of the Withdrawal Agreement, which was only signed in January 2020 after much debate last year over the Northern Irish back-stop, as part of a new bill on the UK Internal Market. The reports that circulated on Monday seemed to suggest that the much-debated issue of the customs union in Northern Ireland, would be undermined. Shock! Horror! The British public would never be misinformed about Brexit proceedings!

Alas, speculation of disruption to the Brexit negotiations did reveal itself to be true (probably just an unfortunate misunderstanding?). The UK Internal Market Bill which was published on Wednesday 9th September only gives the UK the option of making decisions contrary to the Northern Ireland Protocol, the contentious issue debated at length over the course of 2019. Unfortunately, even the proposal of the Bill is enough to be a breach of international law, although in a “limited and specific way” …

UK chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, and PM Boris Johnson alluded to being prepared to leave the EU without a deal,  in the hope of having a trading arrangement with the EU ‘like Australia’ by the European Council meeting scheduled on 15th – 16th October.

No deal? No problem!

More complications over the UK Internal Market Bill arose when the UK’s top civil servant, Jonathan Jones, handed in his resignation after reportedly clashing over the EU agreement and what it would mean for Northern Ireland. This is in addition to several senior figures in government expressing their concerns surrounding the bill – some have already tried to negotiate with Johnson asking him to amend it for the Second Reading in Parliament, scheduled for next week. Former Justice Secretary, David Gauke, suggested that passing this bill would most likely result in no deal with the EU at the end of the transition period in January 2021.

Is it too late to revoke American independence?

After Brexit news (thankfully) took a back-burner during the last few months of Covid-19 chaos, it has returned with a vengeance to dominate the press on both sides of the Atlantic. From Biden’s advisers to Nancy Pelosi, the UK has faced criticism and an ultimatum on their proposal. Pelosi ruled out a US-UK trade deal if the UK were to threaten the Good Friday Agreement by passing the Internal Market Bill without revisions. Despite the warning, government officials continued to maintain their stance that the Bill did not breach any law.

The decision was also condemned by Ireland’s Europe minister, Thomas Byrne, who said that the UK government’s claim to protect the Good Friday agreement was ‘completely false’. Will the UK maintain their integrity and try to pass the Bill through Parliament or buckle under the US’ threats to prevent a trade deal? Stay tuned for the next instalment of ‘What Boris did next’.

Disaster strikes (again)

After emergency talks on Thursday between Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission Vice-President and Michael Gove, current Minister for the Cabinet Office, both the EU and UK government released statements of opposing views.  With the EU threatening legal action and the UK arguing their ‘Parliamentary sovereignty’, there seems to be no sight of common ground ahead.

Chief Brexit Negotiators, Lord Frost and Michel Barnier, both released statements which said they were both committed to reaching an agreement with each other and the negotiations are to continue in Brussels next week. The battle to finalise the realities of the Withdrawal Agreement before the end of the transition period continues, as does the UK public’s battle to ignore the ensuing Covid/Brexit mashup. At least the pubs are open! Oh wait… As if the week hadn’t been long enough already, Brussels decided to stir the pot further, and on Friday morning suggested that they could ban all British food and livestock imports at the end of the transition period next year.

Stilton in Japan?

In the meantime and to reinstate a bit of trust in the UK Government, news came in this morning that the UK made its first independent free trade deal with Japan which the government hope would result in an increase in trade in the financial sector, creative industries, the tech sector and with the food and beverage.

The deal will supposedly give UK companies a competitive advantage in exporting to Japan, and it is hoped it will create jobs and drive economic growth. The government have estimated this trade deal will be worth £15.2 billion however, analysis of this deal suggests that it would only boost UK GDP by 0.07% over the next 15 years. Therefore, the announcement of this deal may not be the positive news we all hoped for after the turbulence of this week…Negotiations between the UK’s future trading partners are expected to be fraught until an optimal decision is made, meaning that the British public won’t be short of gloomy dinner-time conversation any time soon.

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 chris.whitehouse@whitehousecomms.com