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Brexit round-up – 14/12/18

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.

Theresa May attends EU summit

On 13 December 2018 Theresa May arrived in Brussels to discuss the problems she faces with the 27 member states. On arrival, Mrs May confirmed that the party would prefer “to go into [the next general election] with another leader.” The next scheduled general election is in 2022. Mrs May travelled to Brussels to “assuage” the concerns of Conservative MPs who voted against her by seeking legal “assurances” from EU leaders that the backstop plan to prevent the return of a hard border in Northern Ireland would be temporary. However, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said there could be clarifications but no renegotiation and urged the UK to set out more clearly what it wants.

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Prime Minister wins confidence vote

Theresa May has won a confidence vote on her leadership by 200 votes to 117, or 63% of the ballot. Speaking after the victory was announced, Mrs May said she has a “renewed mission” to deliver “the Brexit people voted for.” Opposition leader Jeremey Corbyn said the vote had “changed nothing”, arguing the Government was still “in chaos.” Meanwhile DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, whose party props up the Conservatives in Government said: “I don’t think this vote really changes anything very much in terms of arithmetic.”

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Prime Minister postpones ‘meaningful vote’

Theresa May has taken the decision to postpone the House of Commons (HOC) vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, which had been schedule to take place on Tuesday 11 December and will be delayed until 21 January 2019 at the latest. Speaking in the HOC on 10 December, Mrs May admitted the deal would be “rejected by a significant margin” and that the main area of concern is the Irish backstop. This means section 13(4) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 is not yet engaged and the Government is not obliged to make a statement as to any contingency plans it has in the absence of Parliamentary approval for its negotiated deal.

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UK can cancel Brexit decision, European Court of Justice (ECJ) rules

On 10 December the ECJ confirmed that Article 50 must be interpreted as follows: (1) A member state can revoke its withdrawal notice unilaterally, in an unequivocal and unconditional manner, by a notice addressed to the European Council in writing, after the member state has taken the revocation decision in accordance with its constitutional requirements; (2) the possibility of revocation exists until the Withdrawal Agreement enters into force, or, failing that, until the expiry of the two-year Article 50 period and any extension of it; (3) revocation reflects the member state’s sovereign decision to retain its status as an EU member state, a state which is neither suspended nor altered by its withdrawal notice.

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Committee publishes report on progress of the UK’s negotiations on EU withdrawal

The HOC Exiting the European Committee has published a report which concludes the following: (1) there are no realistic, long-term proposals from the Government to reconcile maintaining an open border on the island of Ireland with leaving the single market and customs union; (2) a timeframe for ratification and implementation of a future relationship before the end of 2020 is likely to be unrealistic. The post- Brexit negotiations could take significantly longer because the Government has yet to set out clear objectives for the future relationship that are realistic, workable and have the support of Parliament; (3) it is imperative that objectives for the future EU-UK internal and external security relationships are settled as early as possible.

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Government publishes policy paper on EU citizens’ rights in the UK in a ‘no-deal’ Brexit

On 6 December 2018, the Government published a policy paper which guarantees to protect the rights of EU citizens and their family members living in the UK by 29 March 2019, even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. However, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said the offer was a “watered-down” version of the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. The paper confirms that in a ‘no-deal’ scenario the UK would continue to run the EU Settlement Scheme but only for those EU nationals and their family members resident in the UK by 29 March 2019, not 31 December 2020, as there would be no agreed implementation period.

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

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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