Brexit 5 – Breach of Protocol?

Labour accuses the Government of poor preparation

Shadow International Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry has accused the government of failing to carry out an economic impact assessment of their Brexit deal, after the Cabinet Office and Treasury told her that no such document even existed. According to The Guardian, Thornberry said, “It appears not that the government is refusing to publish the economic impact assessment it has conducted in relation to the UK-EU deal, but that no economic impact assessment was ever produced”. Thornberry also said that the lack of economic impact assessment ‘makes no sense whatsoever’.

New scheme launched to replace Erasmus

The Government have launched a new post-Brexit scheme to allow students to study and work anywhere in the world, replacing the Erasmus+ scheme. From September, a new ‘Turing scheme’ will be made available to fund 35,000 exchanges including university study, school exchanges and work placements. The big difference between the two schemes is that the Turing  scheme aims to improve social mobility by targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds and areas that did not previously have many students benefiting from Erasmus+. The Prime Minister initially pledged to keep the UK signed up to the Erasmus+ scheme, but failed to include this in his EU withdrawal agreement.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland

The Prime Minister visited Northern Ireland this week to unveil a package of announcement to celebrate the nation’s first 100 years, including a £1 million fund for community projects, but this was completely overshadowed by rows over the Northern Ireland protocol. Johnson met with DUP leader Arlene Foster in her constituency, and was told to “stand up for Northern Ireland” and scrap the “intolerable” protocol, which governs Irish Sea trade in the wake of Brexit. The deputy first minister, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, refused to welcome the PM to Belfast.

“Goodwill” and “imagination”

On Monday, the Prime Minister said that post-Brexit “teething problems” at the Northern Irish border should be ironed out with “goodwill” and “imagination. Speaking at a press conference outside Number 10, the PM said the UK was fixing issues at Northern Ireland’s ports with “some temporary technical things” in a bid to keep trade flowing smoothly. This comes after it was announced last week that Britain would unilaterally continue Irish Sea border grace periods until October, a move Brussels says breaks the trade agreement signed by the two sides in December, which includes special arrangements for Northern Ireland.

Trade with the EU takes a dive in first month since Brexit

According to the Office for National Statistics, exports to the European Union from the UK plunged by nearly 41% in January as the Brexit transition period kicked in. Imports from the EU also fell, by nearly 29% – making these statistics the sharpest falls since records began in 1997. The poor figures have been attributed to the mass stockpiling and disruption at UK borders in the run-up to the end of the transition period, but also poor economic turnover in January for the UK, with gross-domestic product falling 2.9 per cent from December. The government continue to face challenging questions from industry, about lengthier delivery times and higher costs due to red tape.

A government spokesman has said that the figures are not reflective of the overall EU-UK trading relationship, but the government has a task on its hands to build business confidence and trust, and to facilitate a trading relationship which encourages business to enter into trade with our closest trading partners.

Political consultancy

The Whitehouse team are experts in the impact of Brexit, providing political consultancy and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients across the Member States of the European Union and the United Kingdom. More information about our Brexit experience can be found here. If you have any questions, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse. at 

More articles in our Brexit series can be found here.