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Brexit round-up – 09/08/19

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.

Former trade adviser to Donald Trump says Brexit panic “not justified”

Steven Vaughn, a former top trade adviser to the US president has stressed that the UK has “enormous leverage” in a potential trade deal with the US. He also commented that the current US Trade Representative had already done all the preparations needed for a potential deal with the UK although he did acknowledge that agreeing a deal could take “months or years.” A key export for the US is agricultural products, but the fact farming methods in the US don’t fall under the EU regulations has led some to worry about food standards but Mr Vaughn has said that the US would like a deal to involve the expansion of farm exports, and he doesn’t think its “something people should be afraid of.”

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Jeremy Corbyn urges the UK’s most senior civil servant to prevent a no-deal Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn has written to Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill saying that leaving the EU on 31 October while a general election campaign is ongoing and before a new government is elected wold be an “anti-democratic abuse of power.” Election rules say Parliament should be dissolved 25 working days before polling day meaning a no-deal Brexit could  happen whilst MPs are not sitting. His letter comes amid speculation that MPs will table a no-confidence motion in the Prime Minister and Mr Corbyn has said his party would propose a no-confidence vote at an “appropriate” time after the Commons returned from its summer recess on 3 September. However, the Prime Minister’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings has reportedly told MPs that losing a no-confidence vote would not stop the Prime Minister taking the UK out of the EU by the October 31 deadline.

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No-deal fund for companies receives low take-up

Last year the Treasury and Revenue & Customs announced an £8m training fund to which companies could apply, to help prepare for a no-deal scenario. It is estimated that there are about 240,000 UK businesses that trade with the EU, of which just 741 have applied for the grant, a figure that the director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce has called “concerning.” The funding aims to support employee training and IT improvements to complete customs declarations, in the event of a no-deal. The Head of EU negotiations at the Confederation of British Industry has said the reason the take-up is so low is because “the Government [has] failed to adequately publicise the scheme.”

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UK Food Industry wants Government to waive aspects of competition law

Competition law rules prohibit suppliers and retailers from co-ordinating, amongst other things, supply or pricing, but, the UK food industry has asked the Government to consider waiving aspects of competition law in order to allow firms to co-ordinate and direct supplies with each other in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The boss of one leading retailer commented that there could be scenarios where retail bosses and the Government need to decide where lorries go to keep the food supply chain going, meaning retailers would have to work with competitors and therefore a suspension of competition law would be needed. The Food and Drink Federation’s chief operating officer has said it would be happy to help retailers, but due to fines of up to 10% of turnover that the CMA can impose for anti-competitive behaviour, it would need “some pretty cast iron reassurances” if it was to help businesses.

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UK music industry could suffer in the event of a no-deal Brexit

The BPI, the organisation that represents the UK’s music industry has said that a no-deal Brexit could make life “very difficult” for the UK music industry as it believes copyright laws “might be thrown in the air.” The BPI is also concerned about the ability of musicians to tour overseas as a no-deal Brexit could mean uncertainty over work permits, delays at European borders and complications with moving instruments across the continent. The BPI is petitioning the Government “to ensure people can work and freely move abroad in the EEA area without visas for 90 days within any 180 day period, so they can tour and work abroad.”

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Dairy cows in Northern Ireland could be culled in the event of a no-deal Brexit

Senior industry figures have warned that approximately 45,000 cows could be culled in Northern Ireland, in the event of a no-deal Brexit if higher tariffs are applied to British milk. About a third of Northern Ireland’s dairy output is processed in the Republic of Ireland, which would continue to be part of the EU, leaving Northern Ireland particularly vulnerable. Northern Ireland producers are concerned that if no agreement is reached and trading relationships with the Republic of Ireland become difficult, the country will be left with a glut of milk that it will not be able to process of sell. An industry insider commented that a no-deal Brexit could mean “hundreds of thousands of litres of milk going to waste, and then the farmers would have no choice but to reduce their herds.”

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The EU refusing to negotiate a new Brexit deal, says Gove

Michael Gove has commented that he was “deeply saddened” that the EU seem to be refusing to renegotiate a Brexit deal. His comments come after EU negotiators told European diplomats that there was currently no basis for “meaningful discussions” and talks were back where they were three years ago. Mr Gove said that the EU’s reluctance to negotiate is “not in Europe’s interests.”

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Politicians begin legal action to prevent the PM shutting down Parliament

In a bid to prevent Boris Johnson from shutting down parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit, a group of 24 parliamentarians have started legal action by lodging legal papers at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. It is understood that the group have instructed the same legal team that won a victory at the European Court of Justice last year over whether the UK could unilaterally cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50. The case could be heard within the next month.

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Former US Treasury Secretary says UK is “too desperate” to secure US trade deal

Larry Summers, the former US Treasury Secretary, has said that he does not believe a “desperate” UK would manage to secure a post-Brexit trade deal. He thinks the UK is in a weak position when it comes to negotiating with trade partners, commenting that Britain “has no leverage” and saying that “Britain has much less to give than Europe as a whole did, therefore less reason for the US to make concessions.” Summers’ comments came after the UK’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab headed to Canada, the US and Mexico to begin talks about trading relationships.

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Government urged to reveal its no-deal Brexit plans to the public

Following a series of leaks revealing the impact a no-deal would have on the country, Professor Tim Lang of the University of London’s Centre for Food Policy has called on the Government to make public its planning assumptions for disruptions to food supply caused by a no-deal Brexit. His comments follow the Government’s announcement of the launch of a £138m ‘Prepare for Brexit’ campaign. Professor Lang questioned whether or not this campaign would share the Government’s predictions for what would happen within a day of a no-deal Brexit. Professor Lang believes the “UK Government’s rationale for food secrecy is fear of panic-buying, to which just-in-time delivery systems are vulnerable.”

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Boris Johnson to inject £1.8bn into the NHS

The new Prime Minister has promised a cash boost for the NHS, yet experts are doubtful that the £1.8bn fund is enough to cover the upgrades Mr Johnson has already promised. The boost in health funding is part of an attempt to build a domestic agenda beyond Brexit. The money is set to be made available immediately, though the sources of the fund have not been revealed. A senior policy analyst at Nuffield Trust has commented that “based on the conservative £160m cost estimate per trust, the total cost for upgrading all NHS services would be around £33bn.” She went on to say that “there have been calls to double the NHS budget for NHS investment – including from the NHS’s own regulator NHS Improvement. That would take investment to around £14bn next year.”

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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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