BREXIT Update - 'Flextension' announced

October 29, 2019


Boris Johnson managed to get an approval from Parliament for a general election to take place, which has been set for December 12. Winning this vote is a welcome victory following several recent parliamentary defeats. Given the situation in Parliament where the government sits in minority, an election could be the only way to break the deadlock. However, the country is still split over Brexit and is likely to be reflected in the result once the votes have been counted. Normally elections are fought based on the economy, police and the NHS, therefore this election will be unique, in that it will be fought with the focus on Brexit alone. This is the last chance to resolve the stalemate and move on. Meanwhile in the EU, Donald Tusk, after announcing the formal approval of the Brexit extension, also said that this extension may be the last.

The European Union have agreed a further 3 month flexible delay to the United Kingdom’s departure from the Union.

After yet another turbulent period in Parliament, which has seen political opposition and legal challenges designed to prevent the UK leaving without a deal, being the principle threat in order that Boris Johnson force a deal with the EU. With a little over a week before the UK’s scheduled departure on October 31, a revision to the deal that struck by Theresa May was agreed. The main point amended related to the Irish Backstop, which has been the main obstacle in getting the deal over the line, this has been replaced by a new protocol;

•    Although Northern Ireland remains in the United Kingdom, a customs checks would be undertaken between the UK and Northern Ireland. Taxes would only be paid on goods at risk of onward movement into the Republic of Ireland. No checks implemented on the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.
•    Northern Ireland would be required to follow certain EU rules, such as labelling, health, processes in manufacturing.
•    The EU has a right to check goods at the NI-GB border
•    Northern Ireland’s Assembly members have an option to vote on whether to retain the arrangements after 4 years of the protocol coming into effect in 2021

Given that the government sits in minority, it requires support from Northern Ireland’s DUP, who stated that they would not support the deal since the regularity border would separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. 

Agreeing the deal would also facilitate the Transitional Period which would come into force and remain in place until the end of 2020 where the UK would still apply EU law and enjoy EU benefits as they do currently. Furthermore, it is important to the government to deliver Brexit on October 31 since under Parliamentary legislation implemented to prevent departure without a deal, Boris Johnson would be forced to approach the EU and request an extension.

At an extraordinary sitting of Parliament on October 19, the Deal was to be debated and voted upon, however the Speaker allowed an wrecking amendment by the Conservative rebel Oliver Letwin in advance of the debate and vote, which was approved by parliament, forcing Johnson’s bill to follow a parliamentary approval process before the bill can be presented to parliament and voted upon. This means that the Johnson’s bill could not be approved before October 31. Johnson, being completely cornered and overseeing what is considered to be zombie parliament, had no option other to write to the EU and request an extension, although the letter was unsigned and accompanied by another letter stating that he did not want yet another extension.

There is still plenty of uncertainty, and Boris Johnson’s bill will be subjected to scrutiny and opposition amendments are expected, this is not over.


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