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Brexit in Brief

Alasdair McKillop

Westminster went into recess this week, meaning any major Brexit developments will take place outside parliament for the next couple of months. Here's our round-up of this week’s key developments:

  • See you in court: A two-day hearing on the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill took place at the Supreme Court. David Mundell explained the UK Government was seeking clarity because the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh, believed the legislation was “not within the legal scope of the Parliament”. Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Keen, made his main submissions on the first day before James Wolffe defended the Bill on behalf of the Scottish Government. The Court also heard from the Welsh Counsel General and the Northern Irish Attorney General in support of the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate as it did. No date has been set for delivery of the judgement.  
  • I’ll take that, thank you very much: Power over Brexit negotiations shifted from the Department for Exiting the EU to Theresa May. The Prime Minister will take personal control of the negotiations, supported by newly-appointed Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, Dominic Raab. The changes were outlined in a Written Statement on Tuesday, with the Cabinet Office Europe Unit, which reports directly to Theresa May, leading on the negotiations and the Department for Exiting the EU focusing on preparations for Brexit, including a no deal. Stephen Gethins said it was “ironic that the department which has been repeatedly accused of attempting a power grab has itself fallen victim to a power grab” and Wille Rennie branded Theresa May the “new captain of [the] sinking Brexit ship”. Relatedly, the UK Government published a White Paper on legislating for the withdrawal agreement. It confirms the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill will legislate for the major elements of the agreement reached with the EU, including issues such as citizens’ rights, the implementation period and the financial settlement.
  • Remember us? The Committee on Exiting the European Union published its latest report on the progress of Brexit negotiations. Focusing on citizens’ rights, the report calls for clarification from the EU27 on the status of UK citizens living in the EU and for the UK Government to provide reassurance to EU citizens in the UK. The Committee called for continued rights of free movement, recognition of professional qualifications and voting rights for UK citizens living in EU countries to be prioritised as areas of concern. On the possibility of a no-deal Brexit scenario, it recommended the UK and EU27 issue public statements to reassure UK and EU citizens living within their territory that their rights will be safeguarded.
  • Chequered, mate: The EU General Affairs Council met earlier in the week to discuss Brexit and its progress with EU Chief Negotiator before negotiations took place in Brussels yesterday. Speaking afterwards, Michel Barnier welcomed the UK Government’s White Paper, describing it as “a real step forward”. He expressed concern, however, about the proposed customs arrangements. He stated the EU could not “delegate the application of its customs policy and rules, VAT and excise duty collection to a non-member, who would not be subject to the EU's governance structures”. Progress on citizens’ rights was welcomed and this was echoed by Dominic Raab. The Secretary of State confirmed further work was needed to complete the Protocol on Northern Ireland and Ireland, and to establish “a clear and precise vision for our future relationship”. Further talks will be held in mid-August but Theresa May visits Austria today to hold talks with her counterpart Sebastian Kurz. She's also expected to meet Andrej Babis, the Czech Prime Minister.
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