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Brexit round-up – 23/08/19

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.

Emmanuel Macron tells Boris Johnson the Irish backstop is “indispensable”

Boris Johnson has met with the French president for Brexit talks. Mr Macron described the backstop as an “indispensable guarantee” of “stability in Ireland” and as the means of protecting the integrity of the European single market. The French president warned that any withdrawal agreement that the two sides might reach in the next month would not be very different from the existing one. Speaking after the meeting, the Prime Minister said that he was “very confident” that the UK and EU would be able to find a solution.

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Organisations working with the Government on Brexit no longer required to sign Non-disclosure agreements

Ministers believe non-disclosure agreements hinder constructive debate and exchange of information, with some organisations for example saying they restrict their ability to properly tell members how to prepare for Brexit. As such, the decision to ditch non-disclosure agreements in the vast majority of circumstances was made by Ministers at a XO committee meeting. Such agreements will now only be entered into, or existing agreements maintained, when it is strictly necessary.

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Boris Johnson meeting with German Chancellor

Boris Johnson met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday. The Prime Minister was expected to reiterate his call for the Irish border backstop plan to be scrapped. Although the EU has rejected the possibility of any changes to the backstop, the Prime Minister has said he will do all he can to renegotiate the agreement. Ms Merkel has stressed that the backstop was a position of last resort and once a “practical solution” was found for the Irish border which allows trade and secures the Good Friday Agreement, it would not be needed. She did however say that there would be no change to the withdrawal agreement.

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Boris Johnson writes to the EU setting out his demands for a Brexit deal

The Prime Minister has written to European Council President Donald Tusk to say that the Irish backstop must be scrapped as it is “unviable,” “anti-democratic” and is “inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK.” Mr Johnson has said that he is “confident that Parliament would be able to act rapidly if we were able to reach a satisfactory agreement which did not contain the backstop.” However, Mr Tusk has tweeted that “the backstop is an insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative is found.”

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Jeremy Corbyn says the country needs a general election

Speaking in Northamptonshire, Mr Corbyn said the UK was facing a Brexit “crisis” and said a general election is the “change of direction the country needs.” His speech comes after a leaked government report warned of food and medicine shortages in a no-deal exit, although Michael Gove who is responsible for no-deal preparation said the leaked document outlined a “worst-case scenario.” Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has told the BBC that Mr Corbyn will be meeting with other British political leaders next week to discuss tactics to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

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No-deal Brexit will end EU free movement rules

The UK Government has said that EU migration rules will “end straight after no-deal.” A spokesperson has said that after Brexit, “the government will introduce a new, fairer immigration system that prioritises skills and what people can contribute to the UK, rather than where they come from.” The Home Office said EU citizens currently living in the UK would still have until December 2020 to apply for the right to remain under its settled status scheme. The move has been criticised as “irresponsible and reckless” by MP, and one Conservative MP, Alberto Costa, has called the move “deeply concerning.”

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Michael Gove: leaked Government document shows “worst-case scenario”

A leaked cross-Government study warns of food and medicine shortages if the UK leaves the EU without a deal but Michael Gove has said that the document is “old and Brexit planning [has] accelerated since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.” The document also says leaving the EU without a deal could lead to: fuel becoming less available, UK patients having to wait longer for medicines and a rise in public disorder and community tensions resulting from a shortage of food and drugs. The leak comes as Mr Johnson is to meet European leaders this week, where he will insist there must be a new Brexit deal.

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Sinn Féin accuses Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit as being “reckless”

The comments come after the leaked dossier warning of the effects of a no-deal Brexit. The party’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill has accused Boris Johnson of treating the Northern Ireland peace process as a “commodity” in EU talks and said his approach is “reckless,” “dangerous” and “must be opposed.” Mrs O’Neill said the contents of the leaked documents were “of no surprise,” and added that “the consequences of a no-deal Brexit [would] result in a hard border which threatens our hard won peace and undermines the political and economic progress of the past 21 years, enjoyed by the whole island.”

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Former Welsh Tory leader says not leaving the EU would be a “brutal betrayal of democracy”

Andrew Davies has said although he would like the UK to leave the EU with a deal, he was prepared to accept a no-deal Brexit. He went on to say that he “passionately believed” the UK would leave the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal and if the UK did not leave, it would be a “brutal betrayal of democracy.” He added that not delivering Brexit would pose a “real danger to the fabric of the United Kingdom.”

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Over £7m spent on Brexit planning by Scottish police

The figure has been released in a Brexit contingency planning report due to be discussed by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) this week. The report has revealed that a planning team are preparing the force for any civil unrest and demonstrations and a separate delivery team is planning to ensure international investigations and intelligence-sharing are maintained post-Brexit. The report also stated that “Brexit is a highly contentious subject and the Brexit contingency planning team are fully aware of the potential civil unrest.”

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Sir Oliver Letwin would not support Jeremy Corbyn becoming a caretaker Prime Minister

Despite backing discussions across the Commons to prevent the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal, Senior Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin has said that he does not support Jeremy Corbyn becoming a caretaker Prime Minister in a bid to avoid a no-deal Brexit. Mr Corbyn, if made caretaker Prime Minister, has said he intends to delay Brexit, call a snap election, and  campaign for another referendum. However, Sir Oliver has said he “would not be able to support that” and he would not help bring down the government in a no-confidence vote.

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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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