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Brexit round-up – 29/03/19

Welcome to this, our latest Brexit round-up. Each week we provide a succinct round-up of the latest news surrounding the Brexit process, so you can keep abreast of the issues which are likely to affect your organisation.

MPs reject Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement

On 29 March 2019, MPs rejected Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement by 344 votes to 286, a majority of 58. The result of the vote means the UK has missed an EU deadline to secure an extension of the Brexit process and leave with a deal on 22 May. Mrs May said the vote would have “grave” implications and the “legal default” was that the UK would leave on 12 April. That meant there would not be enough time to get legislation through to avoid a no-deal Brexit, she added. Mrs May now has until 12 April to seek a longer extension to the negotiation process to avoid a no-deal Brexit on that date.

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Prime Minister vows to resign if deal is passed

In a statement to Tory backbench MPs on 27 March 2019, Theresa May said: “I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.” Mrs May said she knew that Tory MPs did not want her to lead the next phase of Brexit negotiations “and I won’t stand in the way of that” she said. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that Mrs May’s announcement “shows once and for all that her chaotic Brexit negotiations have been about party management, not principles or the public interest”. In the meantime efforts to persuade MPs to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal will continue.

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House of Commons (HoC) holds indicative votes in first stage to identify way forward

On 27 March 2019, the HoC held indicative votes on a series of motions that suggested different ways forward relating to the UK’s withdrawal from, and future relationship with, the EU. These indicative votes were not supported by the Government. The strongest contenders from the votes were: (1) customs union: 264 for; 272 against; (2) confirmatory public vote: 268 for; 295 against and (3) Labour’s alternative plan: 237 for; 307 against. The results of the votes on 27 March 2019 (and any on 1 April 2019) only have political force, not legal force. However, it is possible that if the Government does not signal its willingness to implement a majority view of the HoC (and if the “meaningful vote” on the deal does not pass), the HoC might move to legislate for any majority way forward identified.

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Institute of Directors (IoD) calls on MPs to take account of the views of business leaders

The IoD has released statistics from an IoD Policy Voice survey, which showed members favoured alignment on Single Market rules and tariffs to gain EU market access, albeit with a minority in favour of diverging. Accordingly, Interim Director General Edwin Morgan stated: “Politicians who claim to prioritise the UK’s future economic success must take account of the views of business leaders, who understand better than anyone the impact of the changes that are coming to our relationship with our largest trading partner”. Mr Morgan added: “Conflicting views among MPs are understandable, and business does not have a unanimous view either, but now is the moment to accept that every course of action creates both risks and opportunities”.

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Government responds to petition calling for Brexit to be cancelled

The Government has officially responded to the record-breaking petition, calling for Brexit to be cancelled, which has passed more than 5.75 million signatures, and will be debated by MPs on 1 April 2019. The Government said it “acknowledges the considerable number of people” who have signed it, but revoking Article 50 would “break the promises” made to voters. Debates will also take place on two other petitions: one, which has passed 120,000 signatures, calling to hold another EU referendum. Another, which has passed 140,000 signatures, calling for the UK to leave the EU with or without a deal on the original Brexit date of 29 March.

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Government publishes trade remedies guidance

On 25 March 2019, the Government announced the withdrawal of its existing guidance on the UK trade remedies regime, that will apply in a no-deal Brexit scenario, and replaced it with fresh guidance. The new guidance explains how the Trade Remedies Investigations Directorate will investigate if new anti-dumping or anti-subsidy measures are needed to counteract unfair trading practices, and if safeguard measures are needed to counteract unforeseen surges in imports which risk damaging UK businesses, after Brexit. The guidance explains what counts as dumping, what counts as a subsidy and what is a safeguard measure and the procedure by which the UK will be able to implement trade remedies measures.

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MPs vote to take control of Brexit process for indicative votes

On 25 March 2019, the House of Commons (HoC) voted to debate and vote on alternative ways forward, and identify those that might command a majority. In a statement to the HoC on 25 March 2019, the Prime Minister said there was still not sufficient support to bring back the deal for a third “meaningful vote”, and stood by the Government’s previous commitment to work across the HoC to find a majority on a way forward. She expressed scepticism about the indicative vote process, and said that she cannot commit the Government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by the HoC.

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Government publishes guidance for businesses to register on new service for chemical regulation

The Government has published guidance on how businesses can register on its new UK IT service for chemical regulation. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, UK businesses that manufacture or import chemicals will have to register under UK REACH, which will replace EU REACH. The guidance explains the specific steps a business must take to register a chemical online under UK REACH. From exit day, the new online system will allow businesses: that have existing UK-held REACH registrations to validate their registrations (“grandfathering”); that import chemicals from the EEA to submit downstream user import notifications; and to register new substance registrations or product and process orientated research and development notifications.

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We have created a Brexit checklist to assist businesses with the various challenges and opportunities presented by Brexit. Please click here to view.

If you have any questions about any of the issues which are raised, or would like to discuss your own organisation’s options in the lead-up to Brexit, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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