POLITICS

Brexit Briefing: Never Mind Brussels, Here's The Brexit Pistols

It's been a helluva week

30/03/2017 17:14 BST | Updated 30/03/2017 17:18 BST
 
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All you need to know from the world of Brexit this week.

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1) Theresa May Might Still Be Working For The Remain Campaign

Unless you’ve been living under a rock - or furiously studying Nazi history books like Ken Livingstone - you can’t have failed to notice that Article 50 has been triggered by Theresa May.

The letter starting the two-year clock on negotiations was delivered to European Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday at 12.29pm, and May delivered a statement in the Commons shortly after.

I’m sure by now you’ve had it up to your Union Jack bowtie with analysis of Wednesday’s events and people trying to read between every line in the letter, so I’m going to keep this brief.

The letter linked a trade deal with continued cooperation on security. This echoed one of the constant refrains of the Remain campaign – that close ties on intelligence would be risked by Brexit.

In recent days the Government has also said immigration may go up as well as down after Brexit, the UK might not get as good a deal with the Single Market as it currently has and we might even pay more money to the EU than we do already.

I’m starting to think Theresa May has been wearing her Stronger In t-shirt under her clothes the past few days.

2) The Negotiations Over The Negotiations Still Need To Be Negotiated.

One of the key points of May’s letter was that the divorce bill and a new trade arrangement should be negotiated simultaneously.

Her counterparts in the EU are not as keen. German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the bill to be settled first before the trade talks begin.

Speaking in Berlin on Wednesday she said: “The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship.

“Only when this question is dealt with can we – hopefully soon after – begin talking about our future relationship.”

With the clock already ticking on the two-year time frame, both the UK and the EU are taking part in a high-stakes stare-out.

Neither side wants the two-year time limit to expire without a deal, but Merkel believes that by saying trade talks can’t begin until after the divorce agreement has been reached, the UK might be willing to pay a little more to get the process moving.

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman this morning dismissed Merkel’s comments as merely “robust” positioning ahead of the talks, but it now means there needs to be talks about the talks before the proper talks can begin.

Another reaction which tugged at the heartstrings of Remain supporters yesterday was Tusk telling the UK: “We miss you already”, minutes after receiving the Article 50 letter.

Perhaps if Tusk and others in the EU had been a bit more flexible in the negotiations last year, maybe the UK would have voted to Remain. But I suppose it’s just easier to act all Love, Actually-era Hugh Grant after the event and get loads of retweets.

3) David Davis Pulled A ‘David Davis’ Again Today

David Davis today put forward details of the so-called Great Repeal Bill.

The plan is to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act that took Britain into the Common Market, and also transpose thousands of EU laws onto UK statute books.

“But wait!” I hear you cry. “I thought Brexit was about getting rid of all those pesky foreign laws!”

You are of course right, but there are some the Government wants to keep, so it’s easier to get them all into UK law and sift out the ones they want to axe at a later date.

The Brexit department’s White Paper explaining the Great Repeal Bill was full of interesting little nuggets (well, I thought they were interesting), including that laws made by the European Court of Justice before we officially leave the EU can still be referred to by judges after the UK after March 2019.

Ministers will also have the power to “correct” EU laws being put onto the statute books without consulting Parliament. This huge increase of power to the executive is making many MPs nervous, but the Government insists it will only be temporary.

Davis appeared in the Commons to explain the White Paper, and no appearance by the Brexit Secretary would be complete without him saying something that his own department instantly has to row back on.

This time, it was that MPs would get a vote on whether the UK could remain a part of the European Economic Area – essentially keeping Britain in the Single Market.

Within hours, a spokesman for the Brexit department issued a statement: “We will not be a member of the single market or the EEA. Once we leave the EU, the EEA Agreement will no longer be relevant for the UK. It will have no practical effect. 

“We therefore do not envisage a vote. We are considering what steps, if any, might need to be taken to formally terminate the EEA Agreement as a matter of international law.

“That is what the Secretary of State was referring to in the House and we will of course keep Parliament fully updated.”

4) Cheap Food Or Happy Farmers? 

Food and agriculture analysts RaboResearch this week produced a winners and losers list for UK farmers in three different Brexit scenarios.

If tariffs remain as they after Brexit, it will probably be good for UK farmers, unless the pound suddenly shoots up in value and impacts exports.

But the two other scenarios – which are both more likely than the status quo – get to the nub of the problem facing Theresa May.

A protectionist Britain which levies import duties on agricultural products coming in will boost the UK’s farming sector, but could send prices up in the supermarkets for consumers. They could rise even further if immigration is restricted, reducing the labour pool and sending wages souring, or causing a limited supply of some products.

Alternatively, if the UK strikes lots of free trade deals – which is the Government’s stated ambition – shelves will be flooded with cheaper foreign products, dealing a devastating blow to British farmers.

Squaring this circle is the key contradiction of Brexit: how do you tackle people’s fears of globalisation by opening your market up to even more of the world’s economies?

5) It’s Been A ‘Rotten’ Week For Ukip

Ukip – remember them? This week the party lost its only MP, Douglas Carswell, as he resigned saying Article 50 being triggered signifies “job done” for the anti-EU brigade.

I’ve written a blog here about why Carswell’s refusal to call a by-election makes him self-serving hypocrite, so I will say no more about it. Except it really annoyed me.

Carswell might be no fan of Nigel Farage, but the bad boy of 1970s punk certainly is. Former Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon – or Johnny Rotten to his fans – told Good Morning Britain this week that Brexit was because “the working class have spoke”.

When it came to the former Ukip leader, Rotten described him as “fantastic” and said he wanted to shake his hand.

Praising a privately-educated City trader who has been a politician for nearly 20 years – that’s punk for you, kids.

Don’t Get Angry, Get Blogging…

At Huffington Post we love a good blog, and here are the finest Brexit-penned entries from this week. Have a read, and if any of them provoke an urge in you to speak your brain, send us a blog and you could find yourself in this very newsletter.

Yvette Cooper on why it’s “dangerous and irresponsible” to use national security as a Brexit bargaining chip.

Alexandra Runswick from Unlock Democracy with five key questions on the Great Repeal Bill. 

Frances O’Grady on how the unions won’t stop fighting for workers’ rights.

Anand Menon on why triggering Article 50 is just the first move in “a game of fantastically complicated 3D chess”.