UK Parliament Approves Brexit and Negotiations Start

Brexit Update

Things are finally moving on the Brexit front. Negotiations have started and the House of Commons has officially voted in favor of the Brexit-deal Boris Johnson closed with the EU. The vote was rather the opposite of what Theresa May had to deal with last year.

What’s the Deal With the Deal?

Johnson’s plan is essentially the same as May’s but replaces her Northern Irish backstop mechanism with a de facto customs border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, which was a sticking point in May’s deal.

The UK will remain under EU rules of trade until December 31. Johnson has said he expects to strike a trade deal in that time, though European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in London Wednesday that the timeframe was likely too short and pointed to potential trade barriers should the UK leave without a trade deal.

Read more in the full article by CNN here.

Lawmakers returned in the new year and finalized the remaining stages in three days. On Wednesday, opposition MPs introduced amendments. That included putting back some of the issues like workers’ rights, which they want to closely align with the EU.

In the end, all of the opposition’s attempts to amend the Brexit bill were defeated. It was another reminder of what an empowered Conservative majority can do. That led to this latest vote in the House of Commons on Thursday, which was assured before it even happened.

Read more in the full article by Vox here.

What’s Next?

Negotiations on a new Trade Agreement between the UK and the EU are next. And this will not be an easy process…

Vox continues:

After January 31, the EU and the UK will enter a standstill period. The UK will officially cease to be part of the EU and will lose any decision-making powers, but it will still follow all the EU rules. The transition ends in 2020, but it can be extended, once, until 2022, if more time is needed for negotiations on future relations. Johnson has said the UK doesn’t need it.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said that the EU is “ready to do its best” when it came to reaching an agreement on the future relationship, but the EU is preparing for the reality that talks could fail. And, the EU said it would keep planning for the possibility that no deal would be reached by the end of 2020, which could again threaten serious economic disruption.

According to Bloomberg Johnson and Von Der Leyen have drawn their lines in the sand.

Crucially, Johnson said that “any future partnership must not involve any kind of alignment” with EU rules and standards or be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Earlier, von der Leyen had set out the EU’s stall, saying it will be “impossible” to get a full deal before Johnson’s year-end deadline, adding that every decision taken would come with a “trade-off.”

While Johnson’s desire is for a free trade deal along the lines of one already negotiated by the EU with Canada, his time-line makes the goal problematic. According to the EU, the Canadian agreement was its most ambitious ever trade deal but took seven years to negotiate. Under its provisions, 98% of goods traded between the two are free of tariffs, and there is also some trade in services and convergence of certain standards.

The U.K. premier laid out some further red lines. He told the commission chief that Britain will maintain control of its fishing waters and immigration system. He also reiterated a pledge that the country would maintain “high standards” on workers’ rights, animal welfare, agriculture and the environment, even while refusing to be aligned to the EU.

Johnson’s press secretary told reporters Wednesday that the U.K. doesn’t want to negotiate under the principle of “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” which characterized the first phase of talks. This suggested a phased approach is possible, potentially leading to a slimmed down trade agreement.

Read the full article on Bloomberg here.

More on What Will Happen Now the Bill Has Passed

Those that want to read more about what will happen next, should check out this article by the Guardian. It has a full overview of the next steps and also has a nice graphic of the timeline and the various options there still are further in the year.

Photo by Paul Fiedler on Unsplash