Theresa May’s Brexit speech in Florence and the fourth round of negotiations between the UK and the EU were the key developments in September. Earlier in the month, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 received its second reading in the House of Commons.
Theresa May’s Brexit speech in Florence
Theresa May gave her much anticipated speech on Brexit in Florence on 22 September. It set out the UK’s current stance in relation to Article 50 withdrawal issues, the future relationship and a transitional period after Brexit. In the speech, May called for a two-year “implementation” period after Brexit, with continued access to the single market, and made a concession about the role of Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) judgments in relation to the interpretation of citizens’ rights under the withdrawal agreement.
However, the speech did not appear to meet Michel Barnier’s request for clear commitments from the UK on the important preliminary issues of citizen’s rights, the financial settlement and the borders in the island of Ireland. This request was made during his speech to the Committees of Foreign Affairs and the Committees of European Affairs of the Italian Parliament on 21 September. Mr Barnier also reiterated the EU’s position that a withdrawal agreement was the best outcome for both sides but emphasised that time was short to negotiate it.
Fourth round of Brexit negotiations
The Fourth round of Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU took place on 25-28 September. Michel Barnier said that although Theresa May’s Florence speech had created a new dynamic in the negotiations “we are not yet there in terms of achieving sufficient progress”. Sufficient progress is required for Michel Barnier to recommend to the European Council, at a meeting on 19-20 October, to begin the discussion on the future relationship.
The closing remarks of David Davis and Michel Barnier indicated that the most significant development in this round of negotiations related to citizens’ rights, with the UK agreeing to give direct effect to the withdrawal agreement by making a commitment to incorporate the agreement fully into UK law. However, the UK did not agree that the CJEU should have a role in ensuring the consistent interpretation of EU law concepts, which Michel Barnier described as a “stumbling block for the EU”.
Ahead of the fourth round of negotiations, the European Commission published five position papers on:
- The use of data and protection of Information obtained or processed before the withdrawal date.
- Customs related matters needed for an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the Union.
- Intellectual property rights (including geographical indications).
- Ongoing public procurement procedures.
- Guiding principles for the Dialogue on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
On 7 and 11 September 2017, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 received its second reading in the House of Commons and passed by a majority of 36. The Bill now proceeds to the committee stage where it will be debated on a line by line basis by the whole House of Commons, and proposed amendments considered. The committee stage is expected in October 2017, after political parties’ conferences have been concluded.
Prior to the second reading of the Bill, the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper outlining the central aims and mechanics of the Bill. In particular, the briefing paper analyses the Bill’s purported:
- Repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 and transposition of “Retained EU law” into domestic legislation.
- Effects on the devolved administrations.
- Delegated powers afforded to ministers, including those which would permit the repeal or amendment of primary legislation (“Henry VIII” powers).
The House of Lords Constitution Committee also published an invitation to contribute to its inquiry on the Bill. The Committee is seeking evidence on the detailed provisions of the Bill and their legal and policy effect. The deadline for submissions is 12 October 2017.
Implications of Brexit for British business
Near the end of the month, the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee launched an inquiry into the implications of leaving the European Union for British business. While the scope of the current enquiry is focused on specialised sectors (that is, civil nuclear, automotive, aerospace, processed food and drink, and pharmaceuticals), the questions being asked by the Committee provide a succinct Brexit checklist for individual businesses in any sector. Deadlines for written evidence from the various sectors are set out on the committee’s website and run from 4 October 2017 to 13 November 2017.