How Brexit might look is to be mapped out in series of detailed reports published by the House of Lords this week in an effort to fill the void left by the Government refusing to outline its plan.
The House of Lords European Union Committee is to release six reports on leaving the union in six days in an advent calendar-style schedule, taking on the biggest issues facing the country.
The committee, Parliament’s largest body responsible for scrutinising the EU, is set to offer a view on how trade, security and other subjects could operate as the Theresa May sticks to her limited ‘Brexit means Brexit’ mantra.
Lord Boswell, chairman of the committee, said the UK is “still none the wiser about what Brexit actually means” despite having voted to leave six months ago.
Last week, MPs voted to back triggering Article 50 by the end of March. But the Commons motion was non-binding and the Supreme Court, which is weighing up the Government appeal to a decision to let MPs have a final say on the shape of Brexit, suggested the vote was meaningless. The vote also compels the Government to detail its Brexit plan.
The committee’s first report warns Brexit risks undermining “peace and good relations across these islands” in its assessment of the impact on Ireland, warning a new bi-lateral agreement is needed between the two countries.
Of the series, Lord Boswell said:
“Brexit is happening and we know it will have an impact right across our economy and public services, as well as a real and direct effect on UK and EU citizens.
“It is now six months since the vote to leave the EU, but we are still none the wiser about what Brexit actually means - the Government still hasn’t told us what kind of Brexit it wants, or about how it will achieve it. It’s now high time for Parliament to start taking the debate forward.
“Our work will provide a comprehensive analysis of the key issues raised by Brexit. We’ll spell out risks and opportunities, and identify some of the key areas where choices and trade-offs will have to be made.
“As a society we need an informed public debate on what will probably be the most important peacetime negotiations in our history.”
On Ireland, the committee warns that if the UK leaves the customs union the current open land border between North and South will be “impossible to retain” without the EU accepting special circumstances, and that avoiding the return of a “hard border” is not a “given”.
With 40% of Irish food and drinks exports going to the UK, the committee also fears the Irish economy could be damaged if fresh tariffs are introduced.
Lord Boswell said:
“The burgeoning peace process following the Good Friday Agreement has improved people’s lives right across the island of Ireland. That progress has in part been based on the fact that both the UK and the Republic of Ireland are EU Member States, with free movement and trade across an open border. Brexit means that there is now a question mark over these achievements.”
“Closer UK-Irish relations and stability in Northern Ireland are too important to put at risk as collateral damage of the Brexit decision.”
A new bilateral deal would involve, the committee says:
* Continuation of the current open land border between the UK and Ireland, as well as the ease of movement across the sea boundary between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
* Maintenance of the Common Travel Area, the right of free movement within it for UK and Irish citizens, and their right to reside and work in both countries.
* Retention of the right to Irish (and therefore EU) citizenship for the people of Northern Ireland.
* A customs and trade arrangement between the UK and Ireland if the UK leaves the customs union.
* Providing the Northern Ireland Executive with the right to make decisions about the free movement of EU nationals within its jurisdiction.
* Reaffirmation by both Governments of their commitment to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and continued support for cross-border cooperation.
* Continued access to EU funding for cross-border projects.
The remaining five reports cover trade, acquired rights, financial services, security and fisheries.
Earlier this month, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson outlined a vague four-point plan for Brexit, but offered few details. They were:
Take back control of freedom of movement.
Take back control of the money that’s currently pre-empted for the EU.
Take back control of our laws.
Campaign for free trade around the world.