PEM News

Here we go round again - Brexit update

Last night saw a series of votes on various suggested amendments by MPs to the withdrawal agreement that was rejected by MPs earlier this month. Two out of the seven suggested amendments were passed thereby giving Theresa May the opportunity to try and negotiate an amended deal with the EU for Britain’s departure from the UK.

The passed amendments concerned a renegotiation of the Irish backstop arrangements and the avoidance of a no deal outcome, although neither are legally binding on the Government.

The Irish border is a key issue. The withdrawal agreement provides for no “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This backstop measure would enable goods and people to continue to cross the border without checks. Those wanting a clean Brexit are opposed to having a backstop without time limit or requiring the consent of the EU for the UK to remove it as they believe the EU will hold the UK to ransom in future trade negotiations. Last night, the majority of MPs said they wanted a new deal with changes to the backstop.

Many people are concerned about the potential impact of leaving without a deal. The majority of MPs subscribed to this view by rejecting the no deal scenario in the second amendment passed.    

Commenting on last night’s events, Robert Plumbly of PEM’s Brexit team said “the loud and consistent voice from the EU is that there will be no renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement currently on the table. The fact that the majority of MPs have now let it be known that they want a deal serves only to re-inforce the hard line stance adopted by the EU.  Although the Irish border is a sensitive issue, the EU also wishes to avoid a no deal Brexit and it is conceivable that the Prime Minister may be able to achieve concessions, but this relies entirely on the EU softening their stance. Here in Cambridge, as with the rest of the UK, businesses and institutions are desperate for certainty so that they can plan ahead. There was movement last night, but significant uncertainty remains.”   

If the EU maintains its entrenched position and the UK parliament can’t find a compromise, the UK could well be leaving the EU in two months’ time with no deal. The EU appear to accept that Brexit can be delayed but only if the delay is sought for a specific purpose. Two of the defeated amendments last night concerned deferment and yet that is now where we could be heading.

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