UK & Europe – the Brexit process

Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.

UK-EU


The Guardian explains the Brexit process.

What is article 50?

In just 264 words in five paragraphs, article 50 of the Lisbon treaty sets out how an EU member can voluntarily leave the European Union. It specifies that a leaver should notify the European council of its intention, negotiate a deal on its withdrawal and establish legal grounds for a future relationship with the EU.

What is ‘triggered’ by article 50?

Once a country gives notice it wants to leave it has two years to negotiate new arrangements, after which it will no longer be subject to EU treaties.

How and when will article 50 be triggered?

The Brexit starting pistol is fired on Wednesday 29 March, when the government delivers a letter to Donald Tusk, the president of the European council.

Then what?

On Thursday the Brexit secretary, David Davis, will publish the government’s “great repeal bill”. This will set out an end to the authority of EU law by converting all its provisions in British law once the UK leaves.

How will the EU respond?

Tusk has promised that he will respond by Friday with “draft Brexit guidelines”.

How long will they take?

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said he envisages there being less than 18 months of real negotiating time. The crucial window is likely to be the year from October 2017, after the German elections on 24 September.

What are the key sticking points?

It’s a long list, and even the topics for negotiation are subject to negotiation.

For example, the UK wants trade talks to be part of the leave discussions, but senior figures in the EU think trade should be discussed separately. While the UK is still part of the EU it is not allowed to negotiate trade deals with non-EU countries.

Another key topic that will need urgent resolution will be the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and British subjects living abroad. The government ruled out giving EU citizens guaranteed protections before the start of talks, giving rise to fears that they will be used as bargaining chips.

Other pressing but tricky issues include security, migration and border controls.

Brexit: everything you need to know about how the UK will leave the EU

Lords debates Article 50

From Missy in the UK:


Today the House of Lords began their first two days of debate on the Article 50 Bill before it goes to committee stage.

Over the weekend a number of Lords said that it would not get through unscathed, and they were open about wanting to do everything to either water down the legislation, or stop it completely, this has put the Lords on a collision course with both the people and the House of Commons. There have been a number of MPs that have been open about pushing for serious reform – or abolition – of the Lords if they hold up this legislation, and some of the Lords have also acknowledged that if they try to stop this it could mean the end of the House of Lords.

Today a number of critics of the Lords, and a couple of newspapers, called for members of the House to declare their interests in the EU – many are earning either consulting fees, or pensions from the EU, and it is seen by some as a clear conflict of interest. If Brexit happens these Lords will lose their EU income, and some believe that is the real reason they want to stop it happening, coincidentally one of the loudest about stopping the legislation allegedly earns one of the highest pensions from the EU.

Theresa May attended the opening debates in the Lords, she is allowed to as a member of the Privy Council, but it is reportedly unprecedented for a PM to go and listen to a debate on legislation in the House – at least in modern times. The last time a PM attended the House of Lords was David Cameron to listen to the tributes to Margaret Thatcher.

Baroness Evans, the leader of the House of Lords today urged the Lords to recognise the primacy of the House of Commons. She reminded the Lords that they passed the legislation for the referendum without restriction on the result, and that this bill is not about re-visiting the debate.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/20/theresa-may-set-attend-house-lords-article-50-debate-person/

This will be interesting times, but it could also be a catalyst for fundamental change in the UK’s political landscape if some are to be believed – and I don’t mean with regards to leaving the EU.

Article 50 Bill passes third reading

The ”Brexit’ bill in the UK has easily passed it’s third reading and will now go to the House of Lords.

A quick round up from Missy:


As mentioned above the Article 50 Bill passed the third reading today and will go to the House of Lords. Of the large number of amendments put forward, only a minority were selected for voting on, part of this is that many were the same, or covered the same issues.

All of the amendments were defeated, including the one for a second referendum and the one to guarantee EU citizen’s rights in the UK. The Liberal Democrats have said they will instruct their members in the Lords to put forward the amendment again for a vote in the House. There are many commentators on social media that have seen this move as the Lib Dems showing their contempt for British citizens, and only caring about Europeans.

I find this interesting as the EU citizens whose rights they are trying to secure are unable to vote in UK elections anyway, so I am not sure why they think the average Joe on the street will see this as a vote winner for them – only the Pro EU elite in London seem to care about this issue, it isn’t one to die in the ditch over in my opinion.

The Government have already said that they will guarantee the rights of the EU citizens in the UK on 23 June last year on the proviso the EU guarantee the rights of British citizens in the EU – some countries have indicated they are willing to do a deal on that prior to the Article 50 negotiations but Merkel vetoed that and said they would not discuss it until Article 50 has been triggered.

A more interesting side story has been the dramas in Labour. Once again a three line whip was opposed, and once again a number of MPs refused to vote in favour of the bill. The imposition of the whip prompted Clive Lewis – shadow Business secretary – to resign from the front benches. This is seen as a blow to Corbyn as Clive Lewis has been a strong ally of Corbyn’s.

Diane Abbott was another one that was being watched by the media & political junkies. Abbott is a strong Corbyn supporter – they have known each other since the 1970’s – however, at the vote for the second reading Diane Abbott mysteriously disappeared and did not vote. This non-appearance last week was explained away as Abbott having had a migraine, (which if correct I can understand her not sticking around – they can be debilitating), but many have questioned this, as apparently she got sick just before the vote.

Diane Abbott is pro-Remain, her constituency voted Remain, and it is widely believed she wanted to vote against the Bill, but did not want to openly revolt against Corbyn – or put him in the position that he had to sack her. Last night she (allegedly) reluctantly voted for the Bill. And in a gossipy aside, it was reported in this morning’s papers that she told David Davis to F*** Off when he tried to give her a kiss in the Commons Bar last night.

There has been speculation that Corbyn will resign as leader, but Corbyn denied this on Breakfast this morning saying that the party is united. There is also speculation another leadership challenge will be mounted against Corbyn.

Below is the expected timetable for the Bill’s passage through the House of Lords.

Feb 9 (today): Peers start to table amendments
Feb 20-21: The Peers debate the Bill during its second reading, they are expected to vote through the legislation
Feb 27: The first of two days in committee. There are expected to be numerous attempts to amend the Bill – I outlined at least one attempt above, from the Lib Dems.
Mar 1: Second day of debates in committee. More amendments expected to be made and voted on.
Mar 7: Report stage and third reading. If p0assed without amendments it will go for Royal Assent, if not it goes back to the Commons for MPs to agree to the changes.

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

From Missy in the UK:


The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill has been tabled in Parliament.

The Bill is 137 words long (I haven’t counted, am trusting the media have and have it correct):

“A bill to confer power on the Prime Minister to notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

1 Power to notify withdrawal from the EU
(1) The Prime Minister may notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.
(2) This section has effect despite any provision made by or under the European Communities Act 1972 or any other enactment.

2 Short title
This Act may be cited as the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/26/revealed-57-word-bill-will-give-theresa-may-power-trigger-brexit/

Labour MPs are complaining they have not been given long enough.

Labour are planning to table 4 Amendments, whilst the SNP are planning to table 60 Amendments.

It seems the Telegraph article may have been slightly incorrect regarding the number of days of debate. According to the Guardian only two days are for debate with the other three for the committee and report stages and third reading.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/26/brexit-bill-mps-will-get-five-days-to-debate-article-50-plans?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

With a lot of backwards and forwards it seems Corbyn will impose a three line whip on his MPs to vote in favour of the bill. Over the last few days there was suggestion he would do this, then suggestion he wouldn’t, bu today he has apparently said he will. Some MPs have already stated they will defy this and vote against.

UK Parliament on Article 50

From Missy on the court ruling on Article 50 in relation to Britain’s planned exit from the European Union:


Yesterday (Tuesday) both the House of Commons and House of Lords discussed the Supreme Court ruling.

Commons:

David Davis, Secretary for Exiting the European Union, gave a speech in which he said that the legislation to trigger Article 50 should be ready within days, some think it will be tabled today. He also went on to say that there is no going back, and the UK will leave the EU. He also described any attempt to try and block Brexit as “patronising, undemocratic and improper”.

A number of Conservative MPs have indicated they are prepared to join with Labour and SNP in an attempt to force the Government to set out its negotiating strategy.

The Liberal Democrats Leader has instructed all of their MPs to vote against triggering Article 50 in an attempt to force a second referendum.

Labour seem to be as confused as ever, in the morning a statement from Corbyn’s office said that they would table an amendment that would seek to build in the principle of full, tariff-free access to the single market, only for that to be removed from a release 30 minutes later.

Labour MP Owen Smith has stated that he is willing to risk his career to vote against triggering Article 50. His constituency voted to Leave the EU, but in an article in the Guardian he stated that he will vote against Article 50 because he thinks that is what is best for his constituents, not what they voted for.

Lords:

The Lords is a fundamentally pro EU organisation, and previously some of the Lords have said that the House would vote against any legislation to leave the EU, there does appear to be some disagreement on that however.

Lord Blunkett (A Remain campaigner) has warned the HoL they cannot overturn the legislation. He has said that it would be foolish if the HoL, as an unelected body, put itself in confrontation with the bulk of the British people. Lord Blunkett was one of a number of Lords (most Remain) that urged the Lords to not block the triggering of Article 50.

The HoL was reminded that the constitutional position of the HoL is inferior to that of the elected House, and it is therefore important that they do not take action to frustrate the will of the elected House.

Lord Ashdown, an outspoken Remainer who has said he will vote against Article 50, was reminded of his own words on the night of the referendum: When the British people have spoken, you do what they command.

Lord Lamont speaking to media yesterday said that the House of Lords, as an unelected body, needs to tread carefully to ensure it does not trigger a constitutional crisis.

It is believed by many in the House that if the Lords vote against Article 50 it could be the beginning of the downfall of the House, and that some may make moves to abolish it altogether and reform the Parliamentary system in the UK, perhaps moving towards an elected upper house. There has, in the past, been a number of proposals for there to be constitutional and Parliamentary reform around the House of Lords, but in general the appetite to make the changes hasn’t been great enough, however, some fear that this could be what will motivate a push for the reforms many see as being needed. It is this fear of potential reform that leads many to suggest the majority of the Lords will vote for Article 50 despite their own personal view, if only to save their own positions.

UK Supreme Court rules on Article 50

The Treaty of Lisbon is the European Union’s constitution, signed in 2007. Article 50 makes provision for countries that want to leave, something that hasn’t happened before. The UK needs to abide by Article 50 in order to leave the EU.

The UK Supreme Court has just released a judgment that means Theresa May cannot begin talks with the EU until the British Parliament must give their backing. This adds a step, but it is still expected to be done before the 31 March deadline.

Missy has posted several comments on the judgment, it sounds like initial media reaction was confused.:


As expected the Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of the High Court stating that Article 50 cannot be triggered without an Act of Parliament. The reason appears to be related to Article 2 of the Act that took the UK into the EEC / EU which states that EU law is to become UK law, thus making the EU a source of UK law. The judges have ruled that a source of UK law cannot be overturned without an Act of Parliament.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court has ruled that the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland do not have to be consulted. This will be a relief to the Government and a blow to Nicola Sturgeon.

Slight correction to what I wrote above with respect to the devolved administrations. The actual ruling states that they have no power to veto the triggering of Article 50, and the UK Government can trigger Article 50 without reaching a deal with them.

There appears to be some confusion some are saying Westminster has no legal obligation to consult with the devolved administrations and they have no veto, others are saying they have no veto or separate vote. I haven’t had a chance to read the judgement yet, so will have a look at that to see exactly what the judges said. It might turn out to be both!

One thing is certain, they cannot veto the triggering of Article 50. This is because Foreign Policy is set by Westminster and the devolved administrations have no authority over international treaties.

I understand that Ministers have draft legislation ready to be tabled this afternoon.


More from the BBC: Brexit: Supreme Court says Parliament must give Article 50 go-ahead

What the Supreme Court case was about

During the Supreme Court hearing, campaigners argued that denying the UK Parliament a vote was undemocratic and a breach of long-standing constitutional principles.

They said that triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – getting formal exit negotiations with the EU under way – would mean overturning existing UK law, so MPs and peers should decide.

But the government argued that, under the Royal Prerogative (powers handed to ministers by the Crown), it could make this move without the need to consult Parliament.

And it said that MPs had voted overwhelmingly to put the issue in the hands of the British people when they backed the calling of last June’s referendum in which UK voters backed Brexit by 51.9% to 48.1%.

What the court said

Reading out the judgement, Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger said: “By a majority of eight to three, the Supreme Court today rules that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an act of Parliament authorising it to do so.”

He added: “Withdrawal effects a fundamental change by cutting off the source of EU law, as well as changing legal rights.

“The UK’s constitutional arrangements require such changes to be clearly authorised by Parliament.”

The court also rejected, unanimously, arguments that the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly should get to vote on Article 50 before it is triggered.

Lord Neuberger said: “Relations with the EU are a matter for the UK government.”

Government reaction: This will not delay Brexit

Outlining plans to bring in a “straightforward” parliamentary bill on Article 50, Mr Davis told MPs he was “determined” Brexit would go ahead as voted for in last June’s EU membership referendum.

He added: “It’s not about whether the UK should leave the European Union. That decision has already been made by people in the United Kingdom.”

Outside the Supreme Court, Attorney General Jeremy Wright said the government was “disappointed” but would “comply” and do “all that is necessary” to implement the court’s judgement.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The British people voted to leave the EU, and the government will deliver on their verdict – triggering Article 50, as planned, by the end of March. Today’s ruling does nothing to change that.”

The ruling doesn’t change the UK government’s aims, but it puts a significant step in the process. And it presumes that their parliament will pass the legislation.

New year update from Europe

Missy has an update from the first week of the new year  in Europe.


Good Morning (Evening for me) and Happy New Year YNZers.

Well, if anyone thought the first week of the year would be quiet over here they were certainly wrong. 2017 will certainly be an historic year in European politics.

2017:

Germany, France, Hungary and Slovenia all have Presidential elections.

Merkel is facing problems in Germany, but may squeak through if she can form a coalition, however another terrorist attack may swing the pendulum against her, but I am hopeful not so far as to bring in a far right leader.

In France, whilst Le Pen may get through the first round, she is not expected to prevail in the Presidential elections, but again I don’t think it will take much for her to be more of a threat than many think.

I don’t know enough about the Hungary or Slovenian candidates, so am not sure how much of a threat to the EU they will pose.

Article 50 is expected to be invoked by the end of March, however Theresa May faces some hurdles as a group of rich and powerful persons (I believe led by Tony Blair) are planning everything possible to stop it. I will go into more about that shortly.

UK Labour (well Jeremy Corbyn really):

The usual really, however, a couple of interesting ‘gossip’ stories (normal for this time of year). First, it has been reported that apparently Corbyn doesn’t talk policy or strategy with his deputy leader, a sore point but it has also fuelled speculation Corbyn will replace his deputy, Tom Watson, before the end of the year.

On Corbyn he has been heavily criticised for siding with a union leader who has been directing a series of strikes by workers of one of the Rail companies. The strikes have caused a lot of misery to commuters from out of London over the last year, and for some resulted in job losses, or not being considered for jobs, or missing out on interviews, due to their ability to get to work in London being unreliable.

Also on Corbyn and unions, Len Mccluskey has hinted that if polls don’t approve Corbyn could step down before the 2020 election, some are seeing this as McClusky not supporting Corbyn, but others are seeing it as being an indication that Corbyn will do what is best for Labour.

Brexit:

In January the Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether Theresa May needs parliamentary approval – or can use Royal Perogative – to trigger Article 50. This could pose a potential obstacle in that if it goes to House of Lords they could potentially vote against it, the Lords are generally pro EU, however, this will cause a power struggle as the House of Lords have been warned that if they defy the Brexit vote there will be radical changes which could diminish their power.

The UK EU Ambassador resigned last night. His resignation letter was leaked to the media, and in it he heavily criticised the Government and apparently referred to them as having ‘muddled thinking’.

Some see this as a betrayal, as a Civil Servant he should not be leaking any information, and he has been accused as being the one behind other leaks about how unprepared the Government are for Brexit.

Some say that this is sour grapes about the fact he has not been kept in the loop about the discussions. And lastly others say this is an opportunity to put a pro-Brexit person into the role, (Nigel Farage was advocated earlier today), however, a career diplomat has been appointed, and he may be a good choice as he has apparently stared down Putin!

Well, here is to an interesting 2017, and all going well the beginning of Brexit.

UK update – Brexit

An update on what is happening on Brexit from Missy in the UK.


Interesting times in the UK this week. I am out tonight and tomorrow, so won’t be able to an in-depth update for a day or two, but below is a quick summary:

  1. The Government’s appeal in the Supreme Court is being heard this week.
  2. Labour tabled a motion to be voted on today for Government to set out the Government’s plan for leaving the EU before Article 50 is invoked.
  3. May called MPs bluff last night by adding an amendment to the motion that read: “The this House should respect the wishes of the United Kingdom as expressed in the referendum on 23 June; and further calls on the Government to invoke Article 50 by 31 March 2017”. May has said it is time for the MPs that claim to respect the decision to show that.
    What it means is that Labour have been neutered in that they now have no reason to oppose triggering Article 50, as their objection was always going to be around the publishing of a Brexit Plan, and if they try to block it now then they will show themselves to have been dishonest about it all.
  4. As the Independent has pointed out, the motion from Labour just says that the Government must set out a plan – nothing about how detailed the plan is to be.
  5. The Lib Dems have added a further amendment calling for a second referendum on the terms of Brexit. This is actually very disingenuous of the Lib Dems, as those who want a hard Brexit would vote against one that is too soft, and those who want no Brexit would vote against it, meaning the UK would cancel Brexit (apparently even after triggering Article 50 there is an opportunity to pull out of Brexit).

On another note on Brexit, one vocal Remain supporter – historian Niall Ferguson – has now come out and said he was wrong to back Remain, and that the UK are right to leave the EU.

And on the Lib Dems (if anyone is interested).

  1. The Lib Dems have been referred to the Metropolitan Police by the Electoral Commission for knowingly making false declarations. This is not an isolated case, or one or two MP’s / offices, it is a total of 307 payments not reported. The Electoral Commission has also given the Lib Dems a maximum fine.
  2. A leak has suggested that there was a deal between the Greens and Liberal Democrats in the recent Richmond by-election whereby the Greens would not stand a candidate and work with the Lib Dems in order to oust the Conservatives, in exchange for a substantial donation. It has also been reported that this is not a one off, and there are deals like this all over the country for the 2020 election.

British court rules Parliament must vote on Brexit

A High Court has ruled that Parliament must give permission (vote) for Britain to ext the European Union. Prime Minister Theresa May had argued she had the authority to proceed without a parliamentary vote.

This has ruffled up the issue.

Guardian: Article 50 ruling leaves Theresa May facing potential MP revolt

Theresa May is heading for a rebellion over her Brexit strategy after the high court ruled that the UK could not leave the European union without the permission of the British parliament.

Three senior judges ruled on Thursday that the government could not press ahead with triggering article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, the formal process for beginning Brexit, without first consulting MPs and peers in the Commons and Lords.

The decision, made after a legal challenge brought following the EU referendum result in June, is a dramatic setback for the prime minister, who had argued that she had the personal authority to begin the process without a parliamentary vote on the issue.

Downing Street has said they will challenge the judgment and an appeal with the supreme court is expected to be lodged. But David Davis, the Brexit secretary, acknowledged that the ruling (pdf) as it stood meant the UK’s departure from the bloc would require the consent of both MPs and peers through an act of parliament.

May is determined to stick to her schedule: Brexit timetable still on track despite article 50 ruling, Theresa May to tell EU

Theresa May is expected to tell the president of the European commission that her timetable for Brexit is still on track despite Thursday’s ruling in the high court, although a leading Conservative peer has called for a delay.

The prime minister is due to telephone Jean-Claude Juncker to say she still plans to trigger article 50 by the end of March, notwithstanding the court ruling that parliament must vote on when the process can begin.

On Friday the Welsh assembly announced that it would seek permission to intervene in any government appeal against the ruling, further complicating the Brexit process.

The Westminster government has said it will challenge the judgment in an appeal expected next month, but some senior Tories have welcomed the ruling as a boost to parliamentary sovereignty.

More: Follow our live updates on the impact of the Brexit ruling