Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Brexit - Private Members' Bills / Royal Assent

The Brexit saga continues to raise matters of considerable legal interest.

Private Members' Bills:

A number of Brexit-related Private Members' Bills have been presented to Parliament.  This is an area of public policy firmly controlled by government and such Bills are unlikely to become law without government backing.  Nevertheless, two very recent ones should be noted.

Brexit - PM Statement 21 January

Brexit - the "meaningful vote" was held on 15 January and the "deal" -  i.e. the Withdrawal Agreement and Framework for the Future Relationship - was decisively rejected by the House of Commons - previous post.

PM's Statement in House of Commons:

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 section 13 gave the government 21 days (beginning on 15 January) to make a statement setting out how Her Majesty’s Government proposes to proceed in relation to negotiations for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union.   However, the Commons voted to require the government to make the statement by 21 January - previous post

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Excellent new guide - Pupillage and How to Get It

From time-to-time a well-presented website appears and offers valuable insight into what can be a bewildering, dauntless area.   Pupillage is the final, vocational stage of training for those seeking to practise at the Bar of England and Wales and the Pupillage and How to Get It website has to be regarded as essential reading for all aspiring barristers.

The primary author of the guide,

Friday, 18 January 2019

Taking no deal off the table ?

The withdrawal agreement was rejected but the government survived the vote of no confidence and started to have talks with political party leaders and others about the way forward.  The Labour Party is not engaging in such talks unless "no deal is taken off the table"  but it is said that "no deal" cannot be taken off the table!  Legally, it is possible.

There appears to be no political consensus to hold either a further referendum (which, it is claimed, could take a year to organise) or to revoke the Article 50 notification.  [The issues and timescale for a further referendum were considered in this post a year ago - 18 January 2018].

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.

Updated 17 January

We are certainly living in "interesting times."  The "meaningful vote" was lost by 432 to 202 - a majority against of 230 - (previous post) and see the Hansard record of the debate (here).

After losing the vote, the Prime Minister said - " ... we need to confirm whether the Government still enjoy the confidence of the House. I believe that they do, but given the scale and importance of tonight’s vote it is right that others have the chance to test that question if they wish to do so. I can therefore confirm that if the official Opposition table a confidence motion this evening in the form required by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, the Government will make time to debate that motion tomorrow."

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Brexit ~ The meaningful vote ~ 15 January 2019

Updated 16 January with result

The day has arrived for what has become known as "the meaningful vote."  MPs have to decide whether to accept or reject the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration negotiated with the EU.   The withdrawal agreement may not be ratified unless the House of Commons votes in favour of it - European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 section 13.

The Order Paper sets out the motion and amendments to it have been proposed.  The Speaker of the House of Commons selects the amendments to be voted on.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Those "reassurances" sought by the Prime Minister

In December, the House of Commons vote on the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Relationship was deferred (previous post) and the Prime Minister said that, having listened to concerns in the Commons about the Ireland/Northern Ireland backstop, she would seek additional reassurances from the EU.

An exchange of letters took place between the Prime Minister and the Presidents of the EU Council (Mr Tusk) and the EU Commission (Mr Juncker). 

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Shenanigans in the Commons as the 'meaningful vote' comes closer

The House of Commons debate on the EU Withdrawal Agreement / Future Relationship commenced on 4 December 2018 and continued on 5 and 6 December.  On 10 December,  the government deferred the vote - (details in this previous post).  The government had realised that it was in danger of losing the vote and wished to seek further assurances from the EU regarding, in particular, the Ireland / Northern Ireland backstop.

On 9 January, a revised timetable was agreed by the House of Commons requiring debate on 9, 10 and 11 January and then, after the weekend, on 14 and 15 January.  The vote is now expected to take place on Tuesday 15 January.

How this revised timetable came about is of some interest and presented to the world further House of Commons procedural shenanigans! 

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Brexit - Government loses vote on Finance (No 3) Bill

A short post to keep abreast of developments relating to Brexit.

Finance (No. 3) Bill:

The Finance (No.3) Bill had its House of Commons  Report Stage and Third Reading on Tuesday 8 January 2019.  This is hardly the sort of legislation to get the blood racing but an amendment was introduced by MPs anxious to prevent a "no deal" Brexit.   The amendment succeeded (303 to 296) and so, for the first time since 1978, the government lost a vote on a Finance Bill.  The Guardian 8 January 2019 comments - 'The coalition of high-profile MPs behind the amendment are expected to use the victory as a springboard for further parliamentary action to prevent the UK crashing out of the EU.'  See also iNews 8 January.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Under the Wig

William Clegg QC is Head of Chambers at 2 Bedford Row.  Having acted in numerous cases, including over 100 murder trials, few at the Bar have greater experience of criminal law.  He was approached by Canbury Press to write a book aimed at non-lawyers with a view to demystifying the legal profession, explaining how it works and including material on the more interesting trials he had appeared in.  The result is Under the Wig: A Lawyer's Stories of Murder, Guilt and Innocence - Canbury Press 2018 (ISBN: 978-1-912454-08-2 Hardback).

Here is a fascinating look at some of the most famous cases of recent years including the murder in 1992 of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common for which Colin Stagg was eventually formally acquitted in 1994 after the prosecution withdrew its case against him. 

Sunday, 6 January 2019

New Year Roundup

Here is an early 2019 roundup of news and views.

Parliament - see Bills and Legislation and Committees.    In 2018, 34 Acts of Parliament were enacted - see the full list

Supreme Court - sittings will resume on 15 January and the court's listings up to mid-April (Hilary Term) may be seen HERE.   For a list of all current cases, including those where the court has heard argument but judgment has yet to be handed down, see HERE.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Christmas 2018

Best wishes to all readers for a truly Happy Christmas and New Year 2019.

"So remember while December Brings the only Christmas day, in the year let there be Christmas in the things you do and say."

On this Christmas Eve may I wish all readers a Truly Happy Christmas.  The Christmas message is a one of hope in what can be a very dark world.  May that message shine through like a candle in the darkness during the days and year to come.

Silent Night - King's College, Cambridge

In the Bleak Midwinter - Gustav Holst - arranged by Pat Johnson played by The Shirley Band

London Symphony Orchestra - Christmas Classics


Friday, 21 December 2018

The Brexit debacle

Today is the Winter Solstice, the start of the winter season.  Parliament's Christmas/New Year recess commenced on 20 December and  lasts until 7 January.  With just 98 days to "Exit Day" there is, as yet, no acceptance by the House of Commons of the Withdrawal Agreement and Framework for the Future Relationship - ("the deal").

A House of Commons vote scheduled for 11 December was deferred by the government until the week beginning 14 January 2019.  The Prime Minister told the Commons that further discussions were taking place with the EU to seek additional reassurances over the Ireland/Northern Ireland backstop.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

"No deal" preparation ~ the official information

EU "No deal" preparation:

With 100 days remaining to Brexit on 29 March 2019, the European Commission began implementation of "No deal" contingency plan.  This is the EU protecting its own interests.  The measures taken are "temporary in nature, limited in scope and adopted unilaterally by the EU."  It is entirely open to the EU to amend or cancel the measures if it deems such action to be required.

The EU commission Press Release states -

Monday, 17 December 2018

Brexit - the impasse continues - Vote of No Confidence in the PM

Monday 17 December, the Prime Minister made a statement to Parliament about the EU Council held on 13 / 14 December.

Prime Minister's Statement 17 December

Council conclusions 13 December

Key points:
Certain negotiations are continuing "to explore further political and legal assurances."   No detail of these negotiations was offered in the statement - e.g. exactly what "legal" assurances are being discussed.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Friday Brexit update ~ The impasse

With just over 100 days left to Brexit on 29 March 2019, there seems to be no prospect of the Withdrawal Agreement being acceptable to a majority in the House of Commons.  The "meaningful vote" scheduled for Tuesday 11 December was deferred to a date yet to be fixed.  The government has indicated that it will bring the debate and vote back to the House by 21 January at the latest.

The Prime Minister faced a leadership challenge mounted by the Conservative Party.  Mrs May won the ballot by 200 votes to 117 or 63% to 37%.  This prompted Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North-East Somerset and a leading light in organising the ballot, to argue that Mrs May ought to have then gone to see HM The Queen to resign as Prime Minister!  It hardly escaped the notice of commentators that Rees-Mogg is totally insistent that come hell or high water the 2016 referendum result (51.89% to 48.11%) must be honoured.

Monday, 10 December 2018

CJEU judgment on revocability of notice under Article 50 TEU

In Wightman and others v Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) has held that notification under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union is unilaterally revocable.  Read the Court's Press release 10 December 2018 and the Court's Judgment.  See also House of Commons Library 10 December.

On 4 December, the court's Advocate General expressed his non-binding opinion to the same effect - see previous post.

The UK government resisted this action at all stages.  The Prime Minister has also consistently maintained that the Article 50 notification will not be withdrawn.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Withdrawal Agreement ~ Vote deferred and other developments

A)  Committee Report 9 December

The House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee has published a report on the Government’s EU Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration.  The Report – agreed unanimously – says that the Prime Minister’s deal fails to offer sufficient clarity or certainty for the future of the UK.

See the Committee's Announcement  and the report - Progress of the UK's negotiations on EU withdrawal - The Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration

The Conclusions and Recommendations in the report express doubt that the future relationship agreement can be concluded before the end of 2020. 

"The future relationship negotiations will have to cover a far wider range of issues, including trade in goods and services, foreign policy coordination, policing and information sharing, participation in EU agencies, agriculture, fisheries, data, labour mobility and the recognition of professional

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Withdrawal Agreement ~ Attorney-General's Legal Advice published

The government has published the Attorney-General's Legal Advice on the Withdrawal Agreement - see UK Government 5 December 2018.

Following the Motion passed on 4 December in the House of Commons - see previous post - the Government has published the Attorney General’s legal advice to Cabinet on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and made this available to Parliament. This is the full, final advice that the Attorney General provided to Cabinet on 14 November on the legal effect of the Withdrawal Agreement. The release of this advice does not set a precedent for any future release of Law Officers’ advice.

House of Commons 4 December ~ a troubled day for the government

Tuesday 4 December 2018

On 4 December the government was held to be in contempt of the House of Commons over the failure to disclose the full withdrawal agreement legal advice given by the Attorney General to the Cabinet - previous post.

The government's timetable motion for the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement debate was approved but with a significant amendment put forward by Mr Dominic Grieve QC MP.  In the evening, the debate on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration commenced.