Thursday, 26 July 2018

247 Days to Brexit ~ Talk of treason !

Clive Dunn as L.Cpl Jones
Updated27 July - see the addendum for Statements of 26 July by Michel Barnier and Dominic Raab.

USA and EU trade:

During his recent visit to the UK, Donald J Trump first claimed that any attempt to keep close ties with the European Union would make a future trade deal with the US unlikely - The Independent 13 July.  Two days later it was reported that the President had insisted the US and UK are “going to end up making a deal” on trade - The Independent 15 July.  All of that is less than two weeks ago and now we see the US President meeting with the President of the European Commission and agreeing to work towards lowering trade barriers with the European Union.  As reported by the BBC 25 July, the two sides would work for zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto goods.  They also agreed to increase trade in services and agriculture, including greater US soy bean exports to the EU.

EU and Trade with Japan and Australia:

Further, the EU and Japan have entered into an Economic Partnership Agreement and negotiations continue toward securing a European Union-Australia Trade Deal.

World Trade Organization terms:

If the UK leaves the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement then international trade would be problematic.  See the article at LBC - What trading on WTO rules actually means -  where it is noted that both the UK and the EU have filed documents in Geneva outlining the terms they will use to trade with the rest of the world after Brexit. 

The UK is currently a WTO member in its own right. The issue is that it does not have an independent schedule of concessions for the WTO - that's the menu upon which Britain trades with the rest of the world.  It needs to have that if it's going to strike trade deals.

A Research Briefing issued by the House of Lords explains the WTO situation - Leaving the EU: WTO.

Some of the difficulties with WTO negotiations are made clear in this article published by the European Centre for International Political Economy.

A further clear explanation of "WTO terms" is at Prospect Magazine 28 June

Stockpiles - but don't panic:

Meanwhile, back in the UK it looks like the hatches are being battened down as it emerges that there are government plans in place to stockpile food and other essentials for use in the event that there is no withdrawal agreement with the EU.  Of course we are told that we must not worry about this because the government is just planning for every eventuality - The Independent 25 July.  Theresa May said that - "Far from being worried about preparations that we are making, I would say that people should take reassurance and comfort from the fact that the government is saying we are in a negotiation, we are working for a good deal.  I believe we can get a good deal, but, it’s right that we say – because we don't know what the outcome is going to be – let's prepare for every eventuality.”

It would not be at all surprising to find that, somwhere within government, the idea of invoking emergency powers under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 is under consideration.  Serious / widespread food shortages or shortages of medical supplies would certainly be an emergency as defined by section 19 of the Act.  See Preparation and Planning for Emergencies.  

MPs go on summer recess:

Parliament has just signed off for the summer vacation which lasts until 4 September.  MPs then return for a few days before popping off on 13 September until 9 October for the madhouse season known as Party Conferences.  (Recess dates). Not even a potentially cataclysmic event such as Brexit without a Withdrawal Agreement appears to disturb the (noiseless?) tenor of their way.

Talk of treason:

Going well beyond the pale is a remark by Mr David Campbell-Bannerman, a Conservative MEP, who tweeted - “It is about time we brought the Treason Act up to date and made it apply to those seeking to destroy or undermine the British state.  That means extreme jihadis. It also means those in future actively working undemocratically against UK through extreme EU loyalty” - reported by Express 25 July.

White Papers - steps to withdrawal:

That is some of the background to the on-going negotiations with the EU.  The UK government's proposal of 12 July - (see White Paper - The future relationship between the UK and the EU) - is still the only proposal on the negotiating table - Previous Posts.  The proposal has almost no outright admirers and many see it as doomed to fail.  It is certainly bedevilled by difficult issues not least the question of the border within Ireland. 

The government's latest White Paper of 24 July - Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union - sets out, in Chapter 5, "Procedures for approval and implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and framework for our future relationship."

For the withdrawal agreement to come into force, three parliamentary processes must take place by exit day.

a)  A Vote in favour of accepting the Withdrawal Deal - this requirement is in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 section 13.

b)  A new EU (Withdrawal) Bill to be introduced as soon as possible after (a).

c)  A final scrutiny process provided for by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 Part 2 (CRAG) - which requires the Withdrawal Agreement to be laid before both Houses of Parliament for a period of 21 sitting days.  Provided the treaty is not resolved against, the government may then proceed to ratification - i.e. the process of the government depositing an instrument of ratification with the Secretary General of the Council

Post 24 July - White Paper on legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement

For the UK to step outside the EU shop does not seem at all sensible in the light of the available evidence.  A change of either public or parliamentary mood is always possible.  In the absence of a massive groundswell of opinion against Brexit, I do not see it as at all likely that Brexit will be reversed though a movement seeking to obtain a "People's Vote" cannot be discounted. 

We can also wonder whether the EU might insist on terms for its reversal should the UK have a change of heart.   According to Nathalie Loiseau - France's European Affairs Minister - Britain could still cancel Brexit and stay in the European Union on the same terms it currently enjoys - The Independent 26 July

Exit Day stands at 29 March 2019 (11 pm) - 247 days away! - (including 29/3/19).

The text of the  Draft Withdrawal Agreement - March 2018 and Negotiation Documents

Outside the Shop

Addendum - Negotiators Statements - 27 July:

See the Statements on 26 July by Michel Barnier and Dominic Raab -

Statement by Michel Barnier at the press conference following his meeting with Dominic Raab, UK Secretary of State for Exiting the EU

Secretary of State for Exiting the EU - Statement following negotiation round

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