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Brexit round-up – 28/06/19

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.

United Kingdom risks “unravelling” over Brexit

Gordon Brown has warned that Brexit could cause significant problems in the future of the United Kingdom with the union between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland being “more at risk” than at any time in 300 years. In the 2016 referendum Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU while Wales and England voted to leave.  Nicola Sturgeon has already indicated that there will be another independence vote for Scotland in 2021 if the UK leaves the EU against Scotland’s will and the SNP’s former deputy leader has said that a no-deal Brexit would be contrary to Scotland’s wishes and if ignored “it leads us closer to independence”.

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Members appointed to Technical Alternative Arrangements Advisory Group

The Government has established the Technical Alternative Arrangements Advisory Group which is made up of technical experts in customs and trade with the aim of finding workable alternatives to the Northern Ireland backstop to ensure there is no hard border when the UK leaves the EU.  There will be two further groups established, one comprised of business and trade unions and a third made up of parliamentarians.  Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman, said “This group represents a broad spectrum of views and expertise, all of which will be needed to achieve our economic, fiscal and security objectives in the unique circumstances of the Northern Ireland land border.”

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Tory leadership rivals divided over Brexit

Whilst Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt both claim they can renegotiate the Brexit deal, their plans for leaving the EU are very different.  Boris Johnson has said that he will leave the EU by the 31 October deadline with or without a deal and wants to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement to remove the backstop.  On the other hand Jeremy Hunt has called the 31 October deadline a “fake deadline” and said he would be prepared to leave without a deal but this is not his preferred option and he wants changes to the Withdrawal Agreement but thinks this can be done by 31 October but if not, he has not ruled out an extension.

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UK Government publishes ‘mapping exercise’ in Ireland

The House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee has published a UK Government scoping document on north-south co-operation on the island of Ireland.  It outlines the 142 areas of joint north-south co-operation in Ireland and shows the extent to which each area relied on the Good Friday Agreement and on EU legal and policy frameworks which formed the drafting of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the draft withdrawal agreement. The Protocol includes the backstop and sets out the arrangements needed to avoid a hard border in Ireland, maintain the necessary conditions for continued north-south co-operation and protect the Good Friday Agreement.  Article 13 of the Protocol requires the Protocol to be implemented and applied so as to maintain the necessary conditions for continued north-south co-operation, including in the areas of environment, health, agriculture, transport, education, tourism, energy, telecommunications, broadcasting, inland fisheries, justice and security, higher education and sport.  On 21 June 2019, the European Commission published a report, addressed to the EU27 member states and the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group, which summarises the main findings of the mapping exercise.

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EU confirms it will not renegotiate Withdrawal Agreement

A spokesperson for the European Commission has said “I can confirm, as has been repeated several times, we will not be renegotiating the Withdrawal Agreement, full stop.”  Boris Johnson has said that he would re-open talks with the EU to negotiate a new Brexit deal which would include replacing the backstop and has suggested he would withhold payment of the £39billion financial settlement if the EU would not agree to make changes to the treaty.  Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said that all 27 EU leaders were “unanimous” that there should be no renegotiation of the deal.

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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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