The sun keeps on rising, the world keeps on spinning and the Brexit debate rages on. Last week Theresa May made a speech at Lancaster House which outlined her twelve point plan for the UK’s negotiation plan as she looks to trigger Article 50 and leave the European Union for good.
The main headline is, if the PM gets her way, the UK will be pursuing a “harder” Brexit, one in which the UK leaves the single market. This is in tandem with the UK planning to forge new trade deals with the wider world, likely the topic of conversation as May meets with President Trump next week. With the UK leaving the single market (or at least planning to), freedom of movement is almost undoubtedly going to diminish, but May still wants to maintain the Common Travel Area within Ireland. Having a land border with the EU is tricky to say the least, especially with the mantra “controlling our borders” being brought up time and time again. Speaking of the constituent countries within the union, May has promised that when powers are brought back from Brussels, the relevant ones will be devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. How much is devolved remains to be seen though. This is also a little tricky in Northern Ireland at the moment as the two parties in power are having their own fight over heating bills (like you and your housemates) and have called a set of elections in early March to try and restore order again.
The PM also announced a bit more transparency with regards to her strategy, but would not be revealing the “blow-by-blow details” (that’s one for all you playing Brexit buzzword bingo at home). It was also announced, unsurprisingly, that a new free trade agreement with European markets is being pursued after we leave the common market, as we try and pick and choose as much of the good stuff of EU membership whilst avoiding all the downsides. Easy, right? The final proposal will be put to a vote in both Houses at the end of it all, but it’s likely that this vote will go through in the Commons at least, due to the Conservative majority.
Science and innovation was also brought up in the speech, with May possibly realising that this could be the route that the UK needs to take post Brexit. Britain will “welcome agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research, and technology initiatives”, chiefly because without this collaboration, UK universities just aren’t as attractive to students and researchers.
Slightly more concrete plans are to be laid out in a ‘white paper’, essentially a more formal statement of government policy going forward. This will be a statement of intent from the government and gives opposition parties (and indeed opposition within her own party) a chance to scrutinise the plans in full. One scientific institute that is likely to leave sooner rather than later is the European Medicines Agency, predicted to take itself and its 700+ jobs to another European location. A similar UK board may emerge in its place to try and pick up both the jobs and the role, but that might be a little too much planning and foresight for Jeremy Hunt.
So what can we expect in the next few months? Well aside from the actual negotiation of Brexit, the Supreme Court dismissed the Government’s appeal of the High Court’s ruling on the process of triggering Article 50. What it all boils down to is that a bill needs to be passed that then allows the Government to trigger Article 50. Tory MPs in favour of Brexit are looking to fast track the bill as soon as possible (likely before the end of February) but opposition MPs may try and amend/stall the bill on its way through. Put simply, barring a massive shock, this bill will go through the House of Commons and likely through the House of Lords too. Any attempt to block the bill after the referendum will probably spark chaos. Chaos that could range anywhere from the Daily Mail getting a bit upset, to a general election or even the abolition of the House of Lords.