This week has seen the ‘Prexit’ of Priti Patel from the Cabinet amidst a furore of ‘secret meetings’ held outside the proper ministerial protocol, and the appointment of Penny Mordaunt in her place. This is significant in that Theresa May has replaced one staunch Brexiter with another, presumably to shore up her own precarious administration.
Ex Prime Minister, Gordon Brown said yesterday that he thought the public may have a change of heart by next summer if the deal looks nothing like they were promised in the referendum Leave campaign. Today, Prime Minister May came over all firm and resolute in the UK’s plans to Brexit, with her announcement that the exact time and date we are to leave the EU will be enshrined in law and she will not “tolerate” any attempt to block it. At 11pm on 29th March 2019 the bells will toll and we will be on our own, according to the amended EU Withdrawal Bill. OK, maybe no bells, but the date stamp seems very final.
So far, 300 amendments and 54 new clauses have been tabled, and the Bill has passed its second reading and goes to Committee Stage next. This is undoubtedly the most significant piece of constitutional legislation in recent times and it is right and proper that it gets adequate parliamentary scrutiny, whatever your views on its primary objective.
It is no wonder then, that at round six of the Brexit talks with the EU, we have made little progress. EU leaders are getting irritable and losing patience. The pressure is on to agree at least a basic ‘roadmap for separation’. The EU main negotiator, Michel Barnier, who never pulls his punches, has said today that the UK has two weeks to sort itself out and firm up its financial offer in the divorce, or no progress can be made in the negotiations.
This comes as David Davis, the Brexit Secretary (yes, that is a real job title) confirmed that he will not agree to have a customs border in Northern Ireland, whilst the EU leaked a paper indicating that Northern Ireland would have to agree to remain in the Customs Union if there are to be no border checks. So there is an obvious solution there. Thing is, will the Parliamentary Brexiters agree to that?
The main focus at the moment is the money question. Nobody seems to care much about the people who came to live here from the EU, or the British Nationals who live in Europe. This is particularly relevant for our employment lawyers here at Gelbergs, as our clients (both EU workers and UK businesses) want to know what is happening, whether they will be able to stay here to work or retain their European staff, or whether it will mean disaster for their lives or businesses. Let’s hope that the money can be sorted, so that talks can move on to what happens to the people whose livelihoods depend on the outcome.
If you have any questions regarding the employment related matters within this blog then please contact us on 020 7226 0570 or HR@gelbergs.co.uk.