In a quieter week with the run up to Christmas the main event was on Tuesday (20th December) which saw Theresa May debut before the Liaison Committee: Brexit was unsurprisingly the focus of the questions. Theresa May gave an allusive appearance and revealed no concrete developments in our insight into the Brexit negotiations, see article below.
- Theresa May won’t rule out EU payments post-Brexit: When giving a statement to MPs about last week’s European Council, May was asked to pledge not to pay any more money into the EU budget once the UK leaves the bloc by Philip Davis MP but the PM refused to rule it out.
- Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit plan: This week Nicola Sturgeon released a report outlining the relationship she foresees for Scotland and the EU when the UK leaves the European Union. It is a Norway-style framework where Scotland will remain in the EEA and in return offer free movement in Scotland. There is a call for a new devolution statement which will give Scotland more powers including power over immigrations and regulatory power over goods, trade and business. If the Government overlooks Scotland’s proposal Nicola Sturgeon has warned there could be another Scottish Independence Referendum.
- European Court of Justice rule the Investigatory Powers Act (known as the Snooper’s Charter), set up by Theresa May whilst at the Home Office is illegal: The ECJ said that the “general and indiscriminate retention” of emails is illegal. The case against the Bill was brought to the European Court by Brexit Secretary David Davis, adding to the embarrassment for Theresa May.
- Andy Burnham: Labour wrong to put single market ahead of immigration: The Labour Party candidate for the Greater Manchester Mayoral election, wrote in the Guardian that Labour’s “collective failure” to tackle concerns over jobs, wages, housing and schools linked to migration had contributed to the loss of the referendum.
- CBI calls for barrier-free trade with EU: UK firms need to continue to have “barrier-free” access to the European Union markets after Brexit, the CBI group has warned in a report. They also stressed a need for a migration system that allowed firms to obtain the skills and labour they need.
- TUC and British Chambers of Commerce urge Theresa May to act on rights of migrants: Businesses and trade unions have called on Theresa May to guarantee immediately the rights of EU migrants to remain in the UK.
- Deloitte apologises for Brexit memo: Deloitte said it regrets the publication of the memo leaked to The Times claiming that ministers had no plan for Brexit.
Finally, in the Christmas spirit, we hear it from our sources in Lapland, that a certain Nigel is most definitely on this year's Naughty List!
Written by RPP Head of London Office, Andrew Brown
Season's Greetings from the RPP Brexit Team
Last Friday (16th December) saw the RPP London team enjoy our Christmas lunch, followed by attending a Christmas Carol Service held jointly by the British-German Association and Christuskirche Knightsbridge.
The service was extremely enjoyable, and festive, and also challenged several member's of the team's German pronunciation as some of carols sung were in German. However, more poignantly and pertinently to Brexit, was Pastor Georg Amann's sermon. In it he touched on the different feelings and emotions that members of his congregation, as well as members of a Polish congregation that uses the church, have felt since the Brexit vote in June.
He spoke movingly, of how many members of the German community in London felt a sense of confusion and loss following the result, and how some no longer feel as welcome in a city and country that they have lived, in many cases, for a long time. But the Pastor also expressed how many had also been uplifted by the kind words and actions that many of his congregation had received from their British friends, neighbours and colleagues, reassuring them that they are still welcome in this country and that the contribution they make to their community is an important and valued one.
Whilst we will never know if immigration was the most important factor for many people who voted to Leave the EU in the referendum, it was certainly one of the high profile issues in the debate. It is also clear that the most cosmopolitan and diverse part of the UK, London, also had the strongest vote for Remain. Whilst migration will continue to be a challenging issue in both British and European countries for the foreseeable future, we hope that the debate can move on to a more positive perspective on the benefits that migration can bring.
For the sake of the EU citizens in the UK, including the Christuskirche's congregation, as well as the UK citizens living in other EU countries, we hope that the issue of their residency status is resolved positively, as soon as possible in 2017. Whilst we are extremely confident that international law, as well as the intentions of Governments in the UK and the EU, will ensure that people in that situation will be secure, it is shame that Governments on both sides of the English Channel haven't been able to agree this simple principle ahead of the negotiations starting formally in 2017.
Christmas time gives many people an opportunity to reflect on the year gone by – and what a year it has been! As well as spending time with our families and taking a well deserved break I'm sure the RPP Brexit team will be catching up on books about the referendum that Father Christmas will most likely put in our stockings. 2017 is bound to be just as interesting a year from a political and Brexit perspective. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the Brexit newsletter over the last six months, as well as to everyone who reads it. Thank you also to the kind feedback we have received.
On a sadder note on this week's terrible events in Berlin. The RPP team extends its thoughts and love to the People of Berlin. The world needs to focus more on those things that unite us rather than issues which divide us. Evil acts of terrorism are never the answer, and we will stand united to defeat them. Wir sind ein Berliner.
Warmest Seasons Greetings to everyone. Merry Christmas, Frohe Weihnachten, Joyeux Noel, Buon Natale, and a Happy New Year!
Written by RPP Head of London Office, Andrew Brown
Theresa May appears in front of the House of Commons Liaison Committee
On 20th December, Theresa May gave evidence to the House of Commons Liaison Committee, a select committee consisting of the chairmen of the 32 other select committees. The Committee is responsible for taking evidence from the present Prime Minister on public policy matters, usually three times a year. Traditionally these have been illuminating sessions however much to the bewilderment, frustration and at some points amusement of the committee members, Theresa May offered no clarity on the government’s plans for the upcoming EU negotiations or any other policy areas discussed.
However, there are a few things we can extract from Theresa May’s evidence:
- There will be a speech in January in which the Prime Minister will reveal more about her approach to Brexit.
- Theresa May refused to commit that MPs would get a vote on the final Brexit deal, even though she acknowledged that Parliaments from the other Member States and MEPs will get to vote. She also refused to confirm that MPs would receive the same level of information as MEPs throughout the negotiations.
- The Prime Minister indicated she is in favour of forming a transitional deal with the EU to allow time for new arrangements to be implemented.
- The Government are making contingency plans if no deal is reached by the end of the two years.
- In a heated exchange with Yvette Cooper MP over immigration policy, Theresa May reaffirmed her commitment to get migration down to the “tens of thousands” but refused to say how she planned to do this and what effect it would have on EU citizens. Distancing herself from the views of the Chancellor and the foreign secretary she said that she would continue to include students in migration targets.
- Theresa May signalled that she would not support the plans published by the Scottish Government that Scotland could remain in the EAA, even if the UK leaves. (Earlier in the day the Scottish Government released a report on their vison for Scottish-EU relations once Britain leaves the European Union; they outlined a policy similar to Norway-EU relations.)
Theresa May’s opaque debut in front of the liaison committee was hardly surprising. Over the beginning of her premiership we have seen that she, and her cabinet, are not fond of concretely discussing public policy thereby it was not surprising that we did not get any significant developments from the evidence session. The Prime Minister’s robust ability to side-step the questions and traps set by the liaison committee further implied that the government will not be pushed into providing details of their negotiating objectives with the European Union.
Written by RPP Policy Researcher, Lucy Kerr