Brexit developments continue to occur at a fast pace. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is now at its Report Stage before the UK House of Lords where that is now entering its fourth day. Several amendments to the Bill have already been passed by the Lords which will be sent back to the House of Commons sometime next month for further consideration. Despite the continued reports of tension within the UK Government, these have not manifested themselves in concrete policy terms.
Also in Parliament, the Exiting the European Union Select Committee published its fourth report on 4 April which can be found here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmexeu/935/935.pdf. There have also been further recent contributions from the private sector including the Confederation of British Industry and the Alternative Investment Management Association.
This week is expected to be a significant week with efforts to agree the post-Brexit UK/EU relationship intensifying and local elections, including all of London, in the UK being pitched as a test for Prime Minister Theresa May and the ruling Conservative Party. However, it is unlikely that May’s Conservatives will suffer a major defeat (although losses are likely). Even if the Conservatives did suffer significant losses, it is far from clear that this would lead to May’s Government collapsing. One thing that is certain is that this Friday’s and the weekend headlines will be dominated by these elections and a fair bit of over-interpretation of their meaning afterwards.
Meanwhile, the EU27 continue to make plans for a ‘no deal’ exit which is not good news given that there was some real hope just a month ago that a deal would be done. Last week, it was reported that the EU27 had rejected the UK’s proposals in respect of the Irish border which, if correct, leaves the initial proposal of a new customs partnership between the UK and the EU dead in the water. The major question now is whether the UK will concede on some form of retained customs union with the EU. If it does, some serious tension in the UK is bound to follow. As an alternative, and provided the Irish border question can be addressed, the prospect of a Canada style agreement being adopted has been mentioned several times and appears to be gaining in credibility as an option. The UK Government would likely agree to such an approach with the EU27.