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All good things must come to an end …

by Politicker 0 Comments

… I’m talking about this Blog which is due to be archived shortly.

This Blog started out as a “Reality Check” for claims and counter claims being made by both sides in the EU Referendum campaigns of 2016. With the UK leaving the EU at the end of January, there is no need to continue with the Blog in its current form.

In summary …

The UK is due to Leave the EU on Friday 31 January 2020 and enter a “Transition Period” until 31 December 2020. This time will be used for discussions to determine the future relationship between the UK and the EU including arrangements for ongoing Trade between the UK and the EU. The Transition Period may, or may not, be extended although the UK Government has enshrined in Law, via the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, that the Transition Period will not be extended past the 31 December 2020.

During the transition period little will change with the UK remaining in both the EU customs union and single market and other things remaining unchanged

  • Travelling to and from the EU (including the rules around driving licences and pet passports)
  • Freedom of movement (the right to live and work in the EU and vice versa)
  • UK-EU trade, which will continue without any extra charges or checks being introduced

However, the UK will lose its membership of the EU’s political institutions, including the EU Parliament and EU Commission and any voting rights, but will still need to follow EU rules with the European Court of Justice having the the final say over any legal disputes.

The whole process has been conducted under 3 different Prime Ministers, David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson. 3 different Secretaries of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis, Dominic Raab and Steve Barclay and 2 General Elections. The Department for Exiting the European Union will be disbanded after the Withdrawal Date.

What’s happened since the EU referendum was held on 23 June 2016 ?

Based on the date for leaving, Friday 31 January 2020,

  • The EU Referendum was held 1318 days ago
  • Article 50 was invoked on 29 March 2017 which was 1039 days ago
  • The original date for leaving was 29 March 2019, 309 days
  • The next scheduled date for leaving was Fri Apr 12 2019, 295 days ago
  • Then it was 31 October 2019, 93 days ago

What lessons have been learned from negotiating with the EU ?

It seems that many mistakes were made by the UK in the negotiations with the EU.

There did not appear to be any clear plan (on the UK side) on how to proceed after the invocation of Article 50

It all started going wrong when David Davis turned up at the negotiating table and agreed (unreservedly) to the EU’s proposed Agenda for the talks. The EU outlined their plan that discussions would be in a number of phases with the initial phase concentrating on EU Citizens in the UK after Brexit, issues surrounding the land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the supposed financial debt owed by the UK to the EU, and other separation issues

However, the EU also controlled when talks on the future relationship would start. For example a future Trading relationship could only begin AFTER the UK had left the EU. The UK could have insisted on bringing forward discussion on a future Trade relationship from the beginning – this is likely to have helped overcome difficulties on how the land border between NI and Ireland could be resolved.

A non-binding Political Declaration document would be included with the Withdrawal Agreement to outline a Framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

The European Council reconfirms its desire to establish a close partnership between the Union and the United Kingdom. While an agreement on a future relationship can only be finalised and concluded once the United Kingdom has become a third country.

Perhaps the UK should have left immediately after the invocation of Article 50 before opening discussions with the EU – Article 50 does not define an Agenda or what form negotiations should take with the country leaving the EU. The UK may then have been in a more powerful position if the EU were proving intransigent in their approach to negotiations.

The roles of the UK’s negotiating team should also be brought into question. Who was actually leading negotiations on the UK side ? Superficially, it appeared that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union was in charge of the negotiations but is the case of a tiger without teeth? The real power seemed to be in the hands of the Civil Servant(s), in particular Olly Robbins. Was he driving negotiations with his own objectives? Who was he reporting to ?

The initial report on Phase 1 negotiations should also have raised some questions. It seems to have achieved all the aims of the EU but what exactly had been achieved for the UK ?

For example, regarding its shareholding in the EIB (European Investment Bank) the UK agreed that this could be repaid by the EU over 12 years !!

The UK share of the paid-in capital will be reimbursed in twelve annual installments starting at the end of 2019

The first eleven installments will be €300,000,000 each and the final one will be €195,903,950

The Withdrawal Agreement is a legally binding treaty between the UK and the EU – The Political Declaration, however, is not binding in any way.

Political Issues

Other major problems were essentially political.

David Cameron had promised to a hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU and assumed that the electorate would vote to Remain in the EU.

The majority of MPs in Parliament were in favour of remaining in the EU and also assumed that the electorate would vote to Remain.

This assumption was proved to be invalid with a majority (narrow) voting to Leave the EU.

The EU Referendum Bill was rushed through Parliament and did not clarify what should happen in the event of a vote to leave the EU. This can be contrasted with the effort made in creating the United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum held in 2011, which committed the Government to give effect to its decision. This lack of definition in the EU Referendum Bill gave rise to the question of whether the result of the EU referendum was merely advisable.

In the event, a majority voted to Leave the EU.

After promising to stay as Prime Minister, David Cameron resigned within days of the referendum – forcing a leadership election, in the Conservative Party, won by Theresa May in July 2016.

A legal challenge delayed the opportunity to invoke Article 50, the EU process for member states to leave the EU. In January 2017 the Supreme Court ruled that the process could not be initiated without an act of Parliament. The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 became law in March 2017 and allowed the Prime Minister to invoke Article 50. The EU was formally notified on March 29 2017.

In April 2017 the Prime Minister, Theresa May, called a General Election in an attempt to boost the majority of Conservative MPs in Parliament. However, this approach backfired and resulted in a hung Parliament with the number of Conservative MPs falling from 330 to 317. She was able to form a minority Government with the support of the 10 Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs

However, it would prove to be an almost impossible task in getting any agreement with the EU through Parliament – the majority of MPs were still against the UK leaving the EU and, as it turned out, numerous Conservative MP’s were also prepared to vote against their own party.

After failing to get approval in Parliament for her Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU, Theresa May was forced to ask the EU for an extension to the original date for leaving the EU. An option was available to leave on Fri Apr 12 2019 at 11:00pm, and if this was not met an option to leave on Fri Apr 12 2019 at 11:00pm was the next opportunity.

After the 1st two dates for leaving came and went, it was necessary to hold elections for MEPs to the European Parliament as the UK were still members of the EU. At this election, the electorate showed their contempt for the main parties with the recently formed Brexit Party winning the most seats (29) and becoming, somewhat ironically, the largest single national party in the EU Parliament. next were the Liberal Democrats winning 16 seats, Labour in 3rd place with 10 seats (losing 10) the Green Party with 7 seats and the Conservatives with 4 seats (losing 15)

After various versions of the Withdrawal Agreement were rejected by Parliament three times, Theresa May resigned and was replaced by Boris Johnson in July 2019.

The basic problem, however, was still there – how do you get a Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament without a working majority of MPs in favour of leaving the EU. The number of Conservative MPs was also reducing, almost on a daily basis with resignations and MPs creating new parties.

In the meantime Boris Johnson sent negotiators back to Brussels with the intention of getting modifications to the Withdrawal Agreement, in particular to the Northern Ireland protocol. Having achieved the changes he desired, but still being unable to get the Agreement through Parliament, he proposed holding a General Election in order to achieve a majority Government in tune with leaving the EU.

A General Election was held on 12 December 2019, in which the Conservative Party won with a majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons. Many of the gains coming from former Labour held seats in the Midlands and North of England which had registered a strong ‘Leave’ vote in the 2016 EU referendum.

After winning the General Election with a sizable majority, Boris Johnson was able to finally get Parliament to approve “his” Withdrawal Agreement, via the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill which enables the UK to leave the EU on 31 January 2020 at 11:00pm

References

o Withdrawal Agreement

Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, October 2019(pdf)

o Political Declaration

Political Declaration setting out the framework
for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, October 2019 (pdf)

o House of Commons Library

Briefing Report: The October 2019 EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement (pdf)

o House of Lords European Union Committee

Brexit: the revised Withdrawal Agreement
and Political Declaration (pdf)

o Joint UK-EU reports

Phase 1 Joint Report from the Negotiators of the EU and UK
Phase 1 Joint Report from the Negotiators of the EU and UK
Dec 2017(pdf)

Commemorating Brexit Day in the UK

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The Prime Minister has today (26 January 2020) unveiled the government’s full plans to commemorate Brexit day on the 31st January 2020.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/brexit-coin-light-display-and-ready-to-trade-campaign-among-plans-to-mark-31-january-reveals-pm

The commemorative 50p coin will come into circulation on the day the UK leaves the EU. The public will see 3 million of these coins enter their banks, shops and restaurants from the 31 January, with a further 7 million entering circulation later this year. The Prime Minister will be one of the first to receive the new Brexit coin, which reads “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”. 13,000 people have already registered their interest in the coin with The Royal Mint.

On 31 January, the Prime Minister and all of his Cabinet will begin the day in the North of England for a special Cabinet. They will discuss the PM’s levelling up agenda and how best to spread prosperity and opportunity across all corners of the UK, as the country looks ahead to the next decade. Later in the evening, the Prime Minister will deliver a special address to the people across the United Kingdom at 10pm.

Number 10 is set to mark the hour itself with a commemorative light display in Downing Street. This will take place ahead of 11pm, which is the hour that the UK will officially leave the European Union. A countdown clock will be projected onto its black bricks from 10pm and the light display will symbolise the strength and unity of our four nations.

On 1 February, the new GREAT “Ready to Trade” campaign will launch in 17 cities across 13 countries outside the EU, as the UK seeks to deepen our relationships with future global partners. Here at home, from Monday 27 January, a new short campaign aimed at businesses and citizens will launch with the message “This Friday the UK leaves the EU”. It will urge them to check for any changes they need to make ahead of January 2021.

Union Jack flags will also line Parliament Square and the Mall on 31 January and the public will see government buildings in Whitehall lit up in red, white and blue colours throughout the evening.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

Next Friday marks an important moment in the history of our United Kingdom. No matter how you voted in 2016, it is the time to look ahead with confidence to the global, trail-blazing country we will become over the next decade and heal past divisions. That is what I will be doing on 31 January and I urge everyone across the UK to do the same.

Throughout next week, the Prime Minister and ministers across government will meet with people and businesses across the UK encouraging the whole country to look ahead.

The Prime Minister will host a “People’s PMQs” session on Wednesday 29 January and children will be invited to Downing Street on Thursday, giving them the chance to ask the Prime Minister questions about the future he intends to build for the next generation. Ministers will continue to focus on the Government’s domestic priorities in the run up to 31 January.

UK – EU Withdrawal Agreement

On 24 January 2020, following the Royal Assent given for the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has signed the Withdrawal Agreement – formerly known as “The Agreement on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community“.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said:

The signing of the Withdrawal Agreement is a fantastic moment, which finally delivers the result of the 2016 referendum and brings to an end far too many years of argument and division.

We can now move forward as one country – with a Government focused upon delivering better public services, greater opportunity and unleashing the potential of every corner of our brilliant United Kingdom, while building a strong new relationship with the EU as friends and sovereign equals.

In Brussels, EU Council President Charles Michel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also signed the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Withdrawal Agreement is an international treaty between the UK and the EU.

The EU Parliament will hold a vote on the agreement on 29 January. Once the EU Parliament has given its consent, the Council will adopt, by written procedure, the decision on the conclusion of the agreement on behalf of the EU.

A copy of the agreement, as published in the The Official Journal of the European Union Volume 62, 12 November 2019 is available from

https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:C:2019:384I:FULL&from=EN
and a local copy is available

Official Journal of the European Union C 384 I (pdf)

Further information is available on the UK Government website at

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/new-withdrawal-agreement-and-political-declaration

EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – Royal Assent

The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill was passed to the House of Lords following its journey through the House of Commons.

The first Reading, in the House of Lords, was held on 9 January 2020, with the 2nd Reading on 13 January 2020. The Committee Stage was held on the 14-16 January 2020 during which numerous amendments were considered. The Report Stage was held over 20 and 21 January 2020 and the Bill was returned to the House of Commons with a number of suggested amendments.

The Bill entered its “Ping-Pong” stage. This is when the bill is sent back and forth between the House of Commons and the House of Lords as they try to resolve disagreements about the final text of the Bill.

The Government had previously indicated that they would reject any amendments to the Bill and this proved to be the case. Because the Government has a large majority, votes rejected the suggested 5 amendments and the Bill was returned to the House of Lords.

The Lords withdrew their amendments and the Bill proceeded to Royal Assent.

All the different stages of the Bill can be found at

EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – Stages

All Documents and details of the debates held can be found at

Bill documents — European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 2019-20

Royal Assent to the Bill, which enshrines in law that the UK will leave the EU on Friday 31 January 2020, was granted with little fanfare and announced, on the 23 January 2020 in the House of Commons by the Deputy Speaker

I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that Her Majesty has signified her assent to the following Act:

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.

After the turmoil of almost 4 years since the EU Referendum was held, 2 General Elections and 3 different Prime Ministers the announcement was an anti-climax.

The UK will leave the EU at 11:00pm GMT on 31 January 2020 and enter a “transition period”, where effectively nothing changes, until 31 December 2020 (unless the period is extended). The period is supposed to minimise any disruption caused by the UK leaving the EU and the time will be used to determine the future relationship (including Trade) between the UK and the EU. It is hoped to agree a future Trade relationship during this time.

UK overseas trade in goods, November 2019

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HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) collects the UK’s international trade in goods data for Non-EU and EU trade with the UK. These are published on a monthly basis and figures for November 2019 have recently been released. (13 January 2020).

UK overseas trade in goods statistics: November 2019

A summary is provided in a document available at

UK Overseas Trade in Goods Statistics Commentary: November 2019

Summary

Total exports of goods for November 2019 were £30.0 billion.

Total imports of goods for November 2019 were £43.9 billion.

The UK was a net importer this month, with imports exceeding exports by £13.9 billion.

For EU trade the UK was a net importer this month, with imports exceeding exports by £7.8 billion.

For Non-EU trade the UK was a net importer this month, with imports exceeding exports by £6.1 billion.


Imports to the UK

EU Imports for November 2019 were £21.1 billion.

Non-EU Imports for November 2019 were £22.8 billion.

Germany accounted for 11.8% (£5.2bn) of the total value of imports to the UK. The USA had the second largest proportion of the total value of trade, accounting for 9.8% (£4.3bn) followed by China 9.1% (£4.0bn), the Netherlands 7.7% (£3.4bn) and France 5.3% (2.3bn). The top five partner countries accounted for 43.7% of total UK import value this month.


Exports from the UK

EU Exports for November 2019 were £13.3 billion

Non-EU Exports for November 2019 were £16.7 billion.

The USA accounted for 15.6% (£4.7bn) per cent of the total value of goods exports from the UK. Germany had the second largest proportion, accounting for 10.0% (£3.0bn), followed by China with 8.0% (£2.4bn), France with 6.3% (£1.9bn), and the Netherlands at 6.3% (£1.9bn). The top five export partners accounted for 46.2% of total exports in goods this month.


Spreadsheets are available which show the figures in more detail.

UK overseas trade in goods statistics November 2019: import and export data

The following tables contain EU and Non-EU import and export data for November 2019.

UK overseas trade in goods statistics November 2019: imports

UK overseas trade in goods statistics November 2019: exports

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