Brexit in a page - 26 April 2019

Brexit expert Jacqui Bickerton summarises all you need to know about the discussions in Parliament this week.

Weekly reflection

Key dates 

w/c 29 April 2019
Possible fourth meaningful vote in Parliament

23 May 2019
European elections take place

31 October 2019
UK leaves the European Union

  • The National Institute for Social & Economic Research (“NIESR”) has released their economic predictions based on a ‘soft Brexit’. NIESR have reported that UK government spending will need to increase in the next few years. The UK economy is expected to grow by 1.4% during the current year if a ‘soft Brexit’ is achieved which would maintain a high level of access for UK and EU businesses in each other’s markets. Predicted growth for 2020 is 1.6% and 1.9% during 2021. NIESR also claim that there is growing evidence that the economy is being adversely affected by the uncertainty and delays of Brexit.
  • Research has also been conducted by Santander Bank who reports that 47% of businesses they surveyed have experienced a negative effect in respect of Brexit to date. Pessimism about the future is a factor, with 16% of the businesses having concerns. There is also a lack of optimism for business growth with only 23% of companies being confident they would grow over the next three years. All of this is reflected in the lack of business development investment which has fallen from 74% to 33% within a six month period. The uncertainty over the last six months has also affected the jobs market which saw a fall from 78% to 53% in respect of businesses planning to hire staff.
  • Meanwhile the customs union argument trundles on. Labour remains firm in their stance that a customs union with the European Union (“EU”) is the best way forward and would protect jobs. Entry into a customs union would also remove tariffs on goods passing between the UK and the EU with common duties being charged on products from outside the EU. However, the Institute of Economic Affairs has warned the UK Government that entry into a customs union will prevent the UK striking trade deals with other markets.
  • The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has conducted a survey which has revealed that retail properties have suffered a decline in investment inquiries which are at their lowest since the Brexit referendum in 2016. The results of the survey are relied upon by the Bank of England as a performance indicator in the property sector.
  • Meanwhile, the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has been updating Ministers on her plans for a second Scottish independence referendum which was put on hold during the Brexit negotiations. Scotland’s votes in the 2016 EU referendum returned a preference for Scotland to remain within the EU. However, the European Commission have warned Scotland about the ‘Prodi Doctrine’ which provides that a EU Member State that is leaving the EU can only be received back into the bloc if it has gained independence in accordance with constitutional law in the member state it left. This means that Scotland would have to become independent from the UK before it could apply to become an EU member state.
  • The Environmental Audit Committee (“EAC”) has released its report which highlights that the environmental protections proposed to replace the EU’s rules “fall woefully short”. This is contrary to the promise by the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove in December 2018 when he promised an enhancement of the UK’s environmental standards. The majority of the UK’s laws on air and water pollution originate from the European Union. Mary Creagh, Chair of EAC said “The Government promised to create a new body that would go beyond the standards set by the EU. The bill, so far, falls woefully short of this vision. The draft bill means that if we leave the EU, we will have weaker environmental principles, less monitoring and weaker enforcement, and no threat of fines to force government action”.

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