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Ed's Brexit round-up

25th May 2018 / By

As the temperatures increase around the country, the UK political establishment seems to have come out of hibernation.

That is not to say of course that the winter has been uneventful in Brexit terms, but we have started to see some of the core issues moved on, and new issues to enter the fray.

Lords to the fore 

Most notably it has demonstrated the presence of the House of Lords – a body that for many is more akin to rubber stamping policy rather than stifling it. The Government of course has a minority in the House of Lords – and has recently suffered a series of defeats on the EU Withdrawal Bill. Critics see this as a ruse to undermine Brexit rather than improve the Bill.

However it should be noted that the Lords in this case are only making such amendments to go back to the Commons again. In effect they are asking the Commons ‘ Are you sure’. Despite this, it can cause two problems: one, it can take up precious parliamentary time which is at a premium given the amount of legislation being pushed through.

Two, the amendments put down by the Lords could be appetising to some Commons Backbenchers – such as the UK becoming a member of the European Economic Area (like Norway), or requiring parliamentary approval for more of Brexit than Government would like. The effects of the Lords’ changes will be seen later this year.

Brussels' patience running out?

Already thin patience is running low in Brussels. Many there see the UK’s approach as too idealistic still, unable to see the necessary compromises that come with having frictionless borders and/or access to the EU market. The most recent flashpoint has been the UK trying to stay in the EU’s Galileo project (satellites), as well as enjoying police and judicial co-operation.

And again we go back to Customs and Ireland: this time the Prime Minister has suggested that as a backstop option, the UK would enter the EU Customs Union if no bespoke alternative can be implemented before the transition period ends. Needless to say this has infuriated Brexiteer MPs but has shown at least some kind of antidote to a ‘cliff edge’ scenario.

It is worth mentioning that having the same regulatory standards between UK and EU doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be a hard border – as does being in a Customs Union – not least because the EU feel that the UK would be getting all of the benefits of membership without taking any obligations.

It has helped little to many Brexiteers that HMRC has advised that an IT based system of customs checks in Ireland would cost £17-20bn (twice the UK’s annual net contribution to the EU budget). Expect this one to come up again and again over the quiet summer period...