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Brexit round-up – 04/10/19

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.

Mixed reaction in the Commons after Prime Minister updates MPs on Brexit plans

The Prime Minister has outlined his new Brexit plan to the House of Commons. The PM received varied support from the DUP and pro-leave Tory members. Steve Baker says that ‘we now glimpse the possibility of a tolerable deal’, claiming the plan has a ‘fighting chance’ of getting through Parliament. However, the Liberal Democrat leader has criticised the PM for not visiting the Northern Irish border and understanding the ‘genuine fear’ that his proposals cause adding that his plan was the ‘worst of both worlds’. In the meantime the Northern Ireland Police Chief announced that there are not enough officers to police the plan. Members of the European Parliament also raised concerns, saying the proposals ‘do not address the real issues that need to be resolved’ in replacing the Irish backstop. They described the plan as a ‘last minute’ effort, which did not match ‘even remotely’ an acceptable deal for the EU. Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s lead Brexit spokesman, said it would be ‘almost impossible’ for MEPs to agree Boris Johnson’s plan and the president of the European Council announced that they stand ‘fully behind Ireland’ in their opposition to the proposals.

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Boris Johnson reveals his Brexit plan

Boris Johnson has set out his Brexit plan that would keep Northern Ireland in the European single market for goods but leave the customs union. The plan replaces the Irish ‘backstop of Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. The backstop has been viewed as a controversial insurance policy to keep a free-flowing border on Ireland’s border, critics feared this could keep the UK tied to EU trading rules indefinitely. The new plan would replace the ‘backstop’ for a ‘broad loading zone’. This would have Northern Ireland leaving the EU’s customs union alongside the UK, yet continue to apply EU legislation relating to agriculture and other products. The proposal also requires the consent of the politicians in the Northern Ireland Assembly initially and every four years to keep the arrangement going. The Prime Minister proposes that customs checks on goods traded between the UK and EU be ‘decentralised’, with paperwork submitted electronically when required and a ‘very small number’ of physical checks. Finally, any checks will take place away from the border, at business premises or at ‘other points in the supply chain’. The Democratic Unionist Party, have approved the plan but other Northern Ireland parties have criticised the proposals.

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Dover could lose £1bn of trade a week if no-deal Brexit strikes

The Port of Dover chief has told the Conservative conference that a post Brexit traffic drop could cut up to £1bn from goods flow. Doug Bannister, the chief executive at the Port of Dover, told a fringe event at the Conservative conference that the assumed drop in traffic under a no-deal scenario would take £1bn a week from the flow of goods. He expressed that the port has been engaged in extensive preparations for ‘exit day’ but added ‘that’s how critical it is. If there’s a no-deal Brexit, it’s not going to be OK. But people are doing all they can to ensure Britain keeps trading’. Each year Dover handles £122bn by value, or 17% of UK’s trade in goods.

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Sour reactions to ‘customs clearance zones’ suggestions

The UK government has suggested the creation of ‘customs clearance zones’ along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as part of negotiations for reaching a Brexit deal. The idea is for goods to be declared and cleared at the sites, their movement would then be monitored, possibly via mobile phone GPS data or tracking devices. This plan was contained in one of four ‘non-papers’ submitted by UK officials during recent technical discussions in Brussels. The plans have received a frosty reaction with some politicians and business leaders. Sinn Fein’s president Mar-Lou McDonald stated to ‘re-impose a hard border on our island… is out of the question’. The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood criticised the government’s plans, stating ‘the presence of physical checks will create economic and security challenges that are unacceptable’.

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Chancellor promises ‘significant economic policy response’ to no-deal

Sajid Javid has declared that Britain could still leave the EU without a deal, whilst not giving details himself the BBC’s Norman Smith identified that tax cuts and reduced interest rates would be an obvious step to mitigate the impact. The Chancellor said the government has been working on ‘mitigations’ to allow it to ‘deal with many of the disruptions’ of a no-deal, if agreement cannot be reached before the deadline. He also referenced ‘the independent Bank of England that will almost certainly think about a monetary policy response and that’s for them’. When asked how much a no-deal Brexit would cost the economy, Javid replied ‘ I don’t think anyone really knows a full proper answer to that question’.

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Older people struggle with EU settlement scheme application

Age UK has warned the government that it could face a ‘Windrush 2’ scenario as vulnerable people are failing to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) in time. Older EU nationals living in the UK could face deportation or be shut out of public services if they do not register for the scheme by the deadline. Age UK announced that only 16% of EU nationals aged 65 and above have made an application to the EUSS compared to 30% of working age people.  The charity’s director Caroline Abrahams said ‘A compulsory settlement scheme, designed to operate mostly online and with potentially dire consequences for anyone who fails to comply with it, spells big trouble ahead. We fear for thousands of older people who have lived for donkey’s years in this country’.

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Core Cities Shared Prosperity Fund must reach £28bn

The proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) needs to be worth £28bn over seven years in order for the UK to deliver its devolved policy objectives.  The UKSPF must be worth at least £4bn a year until 2026, which is double the current £2.1bn allocated annually through EU structural funds. A recent report stated that the Core Cities must convince minsters that the size of the UKSPF should not be driven by the size of previous EU structural funding. Instead, the UKSPF determination should reflect the objectives of the industrial strategy and government plans to reduce economic inequalities.

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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.

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