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Ed's Brexit round-up - new Agriculture Minister wanted!

1st Mar 2019 / By Ed Barker

Now that we are less than 30 days behind the date to leave the EU – an outbreak of shock occurred this week as we actually seemed to have some kind of clearer picture ahead! Not to mention a few other bits of intrigue along the way.

EdBarkerNPAVotes – at last

The key development is that the PM confirmed she will put the withdrawal agreement - including any amendments (unlikely) she has agreed with the EU - to a meaningful vote to the Commons on Tuesday 12 March.

If that does not go through, MPs will then be offered two distinct votes.

On March 13, MPs will be given a vote on whether they want to see a No Deal Brexit, and the PM has made clear that a no deal would only happen if there was clear consent from Parliament for this. It is understood that a no deal scenario is not favoured by a majority of MPs.

Now assuming that this no deal vote is a ‘no’ (quite possible) then on 14 March, MPs will get a vote on requesting an extension to Article 50 to be out to the EU, delaying EU withdrawal beyond 29 March for an indeterminate amount of time. This has to be agreed by the EU however and that cannot be guaranteed. It would also eat into the transition period that is needed to decide (in theory) the final deal with the EU.

This is a big shift in the Government’s approach that had, until now, looked to play for time and force a decision at the last moment. It appears that there has been sufficient disquiet from remain/soft Brexit Ministers that some kind of action has had to be taken in making a no deal less likely – which this almost certainly will  do.

The issue of course could be if Parliament votes against a no deal but also votes against extending Article 50 – not altogether unlikely given that the whole House has been excellent on stating its aversion to things, but not any consensus!

There are whispers that some of these votes could in fact be moved forward to next week…watch this space.

Wanted: One Agricultural minister

This links in very nicely with the other piece of news to come out of the week. Farming Minister, George Eustice MP resigned his position on Thursday and will now return to the backbenches.

He covered livestock and ‘farming’ under Defra (I know, all of Defra should be farming, but that is another discussion for another day. We forget that Defra also has to deal with puppy farming, ivory trading, recycling schemes, clean air and fishing) in its simplest sense – and was covering much of the work of the Agriculture Bill.

Interestingly he resigned at the prospect of Brexit being possibly delayed, adding it would be 'dangerous' to go to the EU 'cap in hand at the 11th hour and beg for an extension'. He also said it could mean a long delay or that Brexit 'may never happen at all' and said the UK must be prepared to walk away without a deal.

This is interesting given how much he knows, of anyone, how much a no deal could harm the livestock sector (I was sat in a meeting with him 2 weeks ago and discussed with him tariffs on exports and the serious need for carcase balance continuity in pork).

This will no doubt add to the freeze on the Agriculture Bill, but also on the long awaited tariff announcement we have been expecting on the UK’s future tariff approach under a no deal. We will wait and see who comes in next – it could well be that the appointment may be one of convenience; someone who is signed up to the Government’s approach on Brexit and will be able to work under Michael Gove.

Whoever it is, we at team NPA will be there ready to work with them!