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Brexit round-up – 11/10/19

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.

Varadkar and Johnson have a “detailed and constructive discussion”

Boris Johnson and Irish leader Leo Varadkar met today in a one-to-one discussion, lasting over two hours, to see if an agreement could be reached in relation to Brexit.  Talks were described as “constructive” with a joint statement being issued saying “Both continue to believe that a deal is in everybody’s interest.  They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal.”  Downing Street said the talks concentrated on “the challenges of customs and consent.”  A crunch EU summit next week on 17 and 18 October is seen as the last chance for the UK and EU to agree a deal ahead of 31 October deadline.

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Parliament called to special Saturday sitting

Parliament will sit at a special sitting on Saturday 19 October in order to decide the UK’s future on Brexit following the EU summit. If Boris Johnson is able to reach a deal at the summit then MPs will be asked to approve it but if no deal is reached between the UK and the EU at the summit then he will need to present a range of options for MPs to debate and decide on. MPs will have to agree a business motion in the Commons for the sitting to take place. Under legislation known as the Benn Act, the Prime Minister will be required to write to Brussels to request a further delay if a deal is not signed off by Parliament by 19 October, unless MPs agree to a no-deal Brexit.

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Brexit deadlock continues

Following fresh proposals being put forward to the EU last week for a Brexit deal, EU leaders have criticised the UK’s Brexit proposals with Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier saying the EU needed workable solutions “today not tomorrow” but he did say he believed “with goodwill” on both sides there could be an agreement in the run-up to the summit. He added that the UK was proposing replacing an “operable, practical and legal solution” to avoid a hard Irish border with “one that is simply a temporary solution.” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also told MEPs that progress had been limited.

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Scottish court delays decision on Brexit extension

Following an application by campaigners to request judges to enforce the Benn Act, which aims to prevent a no-deal Brexit by requiring Boris Johnson to ask EU leaders for a delay if a deal has not been agreed by 19 October, Judges at the Court of Session have delayed their decision noting they could not rule on the matter until the political debate has “played out.” The court will now sit on 21 October to see if a decision can be reached. If the claim is successful the judgement will require to the court to in effect sign a letter to European leaders on behalf of Mr Johnson if the Prime Minister refuses to do so himself.

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Government publishes no-deal readiness report

The Government has published a paper, “No-Deal Readiness Report”, setting out the changes that could take place in the event of a no-deal Brexit and highlighting the work that the Government is doing to prepare for such a scenario. The paper states that while the Government would prefer the UK to leave the EU with a deal, it is prepared to leave without a deal. In the immediate aftermath of a no-deal scenario, the report notes that the UK and the EU would trade on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms, and the direct effect of EU law would no longer apply. The paper outlines the Government’s no-deal preparations for various sectors, including data protection, energy and environment and services. The report also sets out the changes at the UK-EU border, changes to rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU, changes to civil justice co-operation, actions taken to support local authorities, and work undertaken with the devolved governments. It also summarises the Government’s Operation Yellowhammer contingency plans.

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Queen approves second Order in Council to prorogue 2017-19 parliamentary session

On 8 October 2019, the Queen approved an Order in Council providing for the prorogation of Parliament by commission from 8 to 14 October 2019. The 2017-19 parliamentary session was prorogued at the end of the sitting on 8 October 2019. The consequences of this include that Government Bills which had not received Royal Assent by the end of that session fell, unless carried over to the next session, all Private Members’ Bills that had not received Royal Assent by the end of that session fell and some statutory instrument procedures cannot take place during prorogation. In the Government’s view, all the primary legislation needed for the UK to leave the EU on exit day in a no-deal scenario is already in place. However, the Government’s failure to progress and pass the fallen Brexit Bills reduces legal certainty about the nature of pending policy changes to retained EU law in these areas. The Government can choose to introduce new Brexit Bills in the next session, but must start the Bill procedures again from the beginning.

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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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