Confused about what Brexit actually means and how it will impact you? This month, STAND’s Brexit Series will help you understand how we got in this situation, what the proposed deal contains, where the negotiations are at now, and how a no-deal will impact Ireland, the UK and more widely the EU. If you missed the first pieces, no worries, there are here and here.
This third article will give you an insight of the busy week it’s been in Westminster! As it was sometimes hard to keep up, STAND put together a small recap, so you can catch up on all the events that happened during this crazy busy week over in the UK!
Johnson’s new deal: what does it state?
The new deal crafted by PM Boris Johnson, especially the new Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, gets rid of the controversial “backstop” clause from PM May’s deal and replaces it with something… Quite similar in a way. The idea is that Northern Ireland would leave the European customs union (the tariff-free trading area), but would keep following the Union’s single market rules (safety standards for all goods, including food) which are the most complex to check. To do so, there would be a border in the Irish sea and a few “points of entry” at the Irish border. The UK intend to have officials at those “points”, but the EU would have the right to have its own officials there too.
Northern Ireland’s assembly would have to give its consent to this solution, but not until 2025. If the assembly reaches a majority, it will have to vote again on this matter four years later. If it reaches a cross community majority (meaning a majority in both nationalist and unionist votes), then they’ll meet again to discuss this issue eight years later. If the assembly votes against this option, it would have two years to discuss the “necessary measures” for the future. However,this assembly has not been seating for over a thousand days now! If this should still be the case by the time to vote comes, an alternative for the vote to happen should be found.
In regards to the transition period, the citizens’ rights, the financial issues, and the future relationship between the EU and the UK, the new deal sticks to what was agreed on in PM May’s deal.
This week: what happened?
17th October: The European Council endorsed PM Johnson’s deal.
19th October: What was supposed to be a “Super Saturday”, ended up being more of a “Nice-try Saturday”. The British Parliament met on a Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War (1982). PM Johnson’s plan was to submit his deal, endorsed by the European Council, to the vote of its parliament. In the UK, sticking to plan seems to be quite unusual. In fact, MPs vote on the deal was adjourned by Olivier Letwin’s interesting amendment. The ex-Tory MP argued that Brexit had to be delayed until national laws and bill implementing Brexit according to the deal would be passed. The House of Commons did approve the amendment by 322 against 306. In the end, the parliamentarian didn’t even get the chance to vote on the deal.
With this mishap, the British Prime Minister was forced to ask the EU for an extension, to comply with the Benn Act preventing a “Hardloween” Brexit. More than unhappy to do so, PM Johnson found funny enough to send not one but two letters to the EU. The first one asked for an extension but was not signed by the politician. On the contrary, the second letter, recalling how a bad idea would be delaying Brexit, was properly written and signed by the British leader.
22nd October: With 329 votes in favour and 299 against, the House of Commons approved in principle the deal negotiated by PM Johnson. This opens the work of legal transition of the deal into British legislation. But this was almost too easy. MPs voted against Johnson’s idea to pass the legislation implementing Brexit in just three days. So far, any Brexit-related law took between ten to forty days to be passed. Therefore, the Brexit process is “paused” while waiting for an answer from Brussels regarding the granting of an extension.
23rd October: To avoid a no-deal, EU leaders said they agree on an extension. But they don’t agree on how long the extension should be. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, suggested to delay Brexit until 31stJanuary 2020, such as asked by the British Prime Minister in its first letter. Both Germany and Ireland support this three-month extension, while France would rather see the delay be shorter, as the UK only need a little more time to pass legislation. We should hear from the European Council later on today.
24th October: If the European Union grants a three-month extension, the British Prime Minister announced that he intends to give more time to british parliamentarians under one condition: that MPs vote next week in favour of holding a general election on the 12th December. In that scenario, PM Johnson would hope to see his deal approved before the Parliament’s dissolution at the beginning of the campaign on the 6th of November. If the extension granted by the EU should be shorter, then PM Johnson would try and pass his deal in Parliament again.
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