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MPs vote down Brexit deal

On Tuesday, MPs voted down the Brexit deal Prime minister Theresa May had negotiated with the EU, by an overwhelming majority. With 432 of the votes against the deal and only 202 in favor of it, the only offer on the table has been rejected leaving the UK without a contract only 10 weeks before the due Brexit.

In response to the vote, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has initiated a vote of no confidence to be held on Wednesday in which MPs decide whether or not to continue with the existing government. In case May survives the vote she announced the submission of another Brexit plan by next week.

At this point, the UK is left with limited options making a no-deal Brexit more and more likely. This, however, would cause the UK to radically cut all ties to the EU including trading contracts. As a result new and likely increased taxes on import and export would be imposed.

MPs vote Brexit deal today

MPs are getting ready to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal today after the 5-day debate draws to a close. Voting will start at 7 GMT after a final speech by May at 6:30. The widely unpopular deal is expected to be refused by the parliament with MPs from May’s own party joining the opposition to vote against it.

In an attempt to convince MPs to back the deal, May asked in a speech on Monday evening to the House of Commons to “give this deal a second look”, adding:

“No, it is not perfect and yes it is a compromise but when the history books are written, people will look at the decision of this house tomorrow and ask did we deliver on the country’s vote to leave the European Union, did we safeguard our economy, our security and our Union or did we let the British people down?”

On the 29th of March, the UK is scheduled to leave the EU whether it has negotiated a deal or not.

Is a Brexit deal still ‘achievable’?

The Brexit Deal is European’s most important issue. UK Prime Minister Theresa May is continuing to negotiate with the other ministers but at the moment there isn’t a definitive solution.

Brexit Deal: Ireland afraid

Meanwhile, the Brexit deal is looking “more difficult” because of the border question. Northern Ireland and The Repulic of Ireland are very worried about the future. “As regards to negotiations, they’re still ongoing. I know some people were optimistic about an agreement, a withdrawal agreement protocol this week, I have to say I always thought that was unlikely. “We’re always open to compromise … but there are some fundamentals that we can’t compromise.” Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said.

Prime Minister Theresa May has called for “cool, calm heads” as she insisted a Brexit deal was “still achievable” despite differences with the EU. The last meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg was very important but May didn’t convince the most important ministers like the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “If it doesn’t work out this week, we must continue negotiating, that is clear – but time is pressing,” she added.

The future

There is a risk that this temporary situation could become a permanent limbo, with no new relationship between the UK and the EU. The UK is leaving the EU in March 2019, along with its single market and customs union, which allow for friction-free trade between members. After Brexit, it might have a land border with the EU between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Both the UK and the EU want to avoid a “hard border”. For this reason, a Brexit deal is still achievable.

Brexit destiny with “no deal”

After Brexit Minister Davis and Foreign Minister Johnson quit their jobs the last week, most people all around Europe are wondering what is going to happen in the UK. According to the labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, the end for Theresa May’s Government should be very close, because everybody is leaving “the sinking ship”.

The whole country is continuously shaken by the possibility of an imminent catastrophic divorce from the EU, since it seems like the thread of all the question is getting lost. What made The United Kingdom a model during the last centuries, the rule of law, is now turning into the worst trap for the Country: in Parliament most of the representatives don’t recognize themselves in the aim of Brexit, but they have to work on it, or they will betray the democracy.

A very complicated scenario that also reflects on the citizens. It’s known that many of them lost the illusion of getting what they hoped for with this action, meanwhile eurosceptics continue with their angry battle, even if the possibility of a “no-deal” exit from the EU is more real every day.

But what is going to happen is The UK will step out from Bruxelles without “soft agreements”?

The British Government is writing a 70 page document right now to share with all the families to prepare them for this eventuality and the the EU Parliamentarians are doing the same with a 15 page document where they express their perturbation.

Sterling will lose at least 15% (added to the 15%  that it lost in 2016 after Brexit announcement), causing increases of duties in many sectors: +45% for milk and cheese, +37% for meat and +10% for clothes, shoes and tobacco. Restoring border control will bring delays to the delivery system. The import/export process could become long and complicated, since many products wouldn’t be accepted in both directions.  According to previsions, every family will spend 500 sterling more each year, with the Gross domestic product losing 6%.

3 million European citizens status could became confused and not clear at all. They could lose access to the British Health Service and probably authorities will have to restore visas process and maybe The UK will lose the free data roaming. Lot of british realities will be at risk of failing, since many european employees could risk losing their residence agreements.

Right now 30.000 people are crossing the space between Northern and The Republic of Ireland and even if Europe says that there won’t be any control needed between the two countries, the divorce could make political and social tensions rise again.

After March 2019 many flights will probably be cancelled, since Thomas Cook, Ryanair and other flying companies already declared that they won’t assure anything about what will happen after the “flying space closing”. Also medical commerce would have deep impact from the separation, since many UK products wouldn’t be allowed into EU anymore and the other way around.

Everything could still change for UK, but for now, all of us have to get ready to one of biggest social and economic change that we had in last 30 years, and to all the consequences that it will bring.

Brexit White Paper: end of freedom of movement?

Two years ago British citizens voted for Brexit, and Theresa May is determined to deliver it without compromises by the end of March 2019.
The British Parliament has welcomed this Thursday the publication of the White Paper on Brexit in London, which aims to regulate the future UK-EU relationship, and it is going to be analysed in collaboration with Great Britain’s EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier, his team and EU partners, in order to engage together “at pace”.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposals in the Future Framework include a new governing body of ministers, a new system for financial services, a new fare trade area, continuing cooperation with EU on energy, transport and financial aid to EU agencies according to “common rule books”, but what takes the attention of young people at first are the “mobility” rules.
This means that EU citizens will be able to travel to UK without visas only for holiday or temporary work.

Theresa May also posted on Facebook (firstly appeared in The Sun on 12th July 2018):

“First, it will mean a genuine end to freedom of movement.
No longer will people be allowed to arrive here from across Europe on the off-chance that they might find a job.
We will always welcome the skilled professionals who help our country thrive, from doctors and nurses to engineers and entrepreneurs but for the first time in decades, we will have full control of our borders.
And it will be the UK, not Brussels, that decides who should be allowed to live and work here.”

On the other side, EU counterparts are suggesting a combination of EEA membership with continued membership of the customs union. This would mean, according to the Prime Minister’s words, “not Brexit at all”, no control over immigration, no freedom to strike UK’s own trade deals and continued duty of vast annual payments to Brussels.
Theresa May stated she would have respected the willing of the British people by delivering “our Brexit deal for Britain”.

Keep Calm and Brexit On

If the way the Brexit negotiations are handled is not one of the best examples of Murphy’s laws, then what is?

If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.” Yesterday, this “something” manifested in the form of Arlene Foster from the Democratic Unionist Party.

If anything can go wrong, it will,” – Theresa May receives a phone call from Ms Foster…

At the most inopportune time,”  – ..just when she is finalising the Brexit deal with Jean-Claude Juncker.

It will be all your fault, and everyone will know it,” – Ms Foster told Ms May and the media that the situation “could have been dealt with differently.”

And of course, “If there is a possibility of several things going wrong…”. Yes, you guessed it right, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong OR they will all go wrong at the same time. It seems that Theresa May’s motherland has chosen the latter option.

As if the Brexit talks weren’t hard enough, pun intended, Ms May also faces troubles at home.

Trials and Tribulations

First, just before her trip to Brussels, all four members of the board of the Social Mobility Commission decided to quit. Alan Milburn, the former Labour minister who headed the Commission, published his letter of resignation, addressed to the Prime Minister, where he lamented the inability of the British government to focus on anything but Brexit. The government, he said, manifested its will to heal social divisions in name only. “In the end what counts in politics is not what you talk about, it is what you do,” – he commented. “What is needed is really clear leadership to translate perfectly good words into actions that will make a difference.” Although he didn’t doubt Ms May’s personal belief in social justice, he saw “little evidence of that being translated into meaningful action.”

However, Mr Milbourne said he was deeply proud of the work accomplished by the board throughout the years, and also of those in civil society who embraced the social mobility agenda. It was their commitment that inspired him to found a new Social Mobility Institute. It will be independent of the government and political parties and will promote “a fairer, more open, more mobile society in Britain.”

Secondly, Scotland and Wales were quite upset that Northern Ireland became the favourite child with special needs. “If one part of the UK is granted continued participation in the Single Market & Customs Union, then we fully expect to be made the same offer,” – said the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones. Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, was not far behind: “If Northern Ireland is to effectively stay within the single market, it becomes even more vital that Scotland does so too.” Well. Maybe, if you are very good until Christmas…

Meanwhile, the British public is in a full rally mode. The hardline Brexiteers demand that the Prime Minister walks out of the talks altogether, while the Remainers advocate for an Exit from Brexit. Or at least for a soft Brexit, thus urging Theresa May to keep the entire United Kingdom inside the Single Market and the Customs Union. That, of course, would solve a lot of problems, also those related to the Irish border and free movement of the EU nationals.

More on yesterday’s debacle

The British business sector too suffers from the uncertainty.

The Confederation for British Industry wants a speedy and good Brexit. The CBI chief economist said, “it’s time to put people and prosperity above political point scoring.” Any further delay or failure in the Brexit negotiations means sluggish to no growth for the business. Despite the overall positive growth forecasts for the Eurozone, an urgent UK-EU divorce settlement is needed. “The global economy is firing on all cylinders” but  “for firms to really plan and capitalise on these opportunities over the longer-term, urgent clarity is needed on the UK’s new relationship with the EU.” After the Monday fiasco, the pound already plunged to its lowest in three weeks against the dollar. The longer the UK status is left in limbo, the more blows will Brexit deliver to the British economy.

Unhealthy consequences of Brexit

The British business industry is not the only one to hold its breath, the health sector also looks forward to hearing the definite Brexit conditions.

Today, an evidence session of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee is supposed to examine all possible outcomes of the Brexit negotiations, and what they would mean for the pharmaceutical industry. Probably nothing good.

The Committee already published written statements from 19 organisations, including the Association of British Healthcare Industries and the British Medical Association (BMA). According to this evidence, after Brexit, the UK will become a less desirable place for investment, research and development in the healthcare sector.

The BMA EU public affairs manager says Brexit will negatively affect the health services in the UK and in the neighbouring countries.

For instance, the future of the European Health Insurance Card is unclear. The card guarantees necessary healthcare in the public system of any EU country or Switzerland. Around 27m people in the UK have it, as do 190,000 British expats living in the EU countries. After Brexit, the government will have to replace it with an equivalent cross-border care system. The cost and the nature of the new system are still unsettled.

Leaving the EU means leaving the Euratom (Davis David crossed his heart and hoped to die!), and that is a great source of worry for NHS oncologists and radiologists. The UK heavily depends on EU medical equipment manufacturers, and if supplies of radioactive materials used in treatments and scans are disrupted, millions of people will be left with no vital medical treatments.

Over 60,000 European-qualified doctors and medical staff are currently working in the UK, a further 90,000 – in adult social care. As a EU-member, the UK benefits from mutual recognition of professional qualifications and free movement. What kind of red tape will they have to face to continue living and practising medicine in the UK? How will they have to prove their qualifications?

This Home Office statement was supposed to reassure the public concerned. “EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK have made a huge contribution to our country and we want them to stay.” However, it’s hard to believe that when more and more permanent residency applications get refused. Some of those who apply have been working and living in the UK for years, even decades. They have spouses and children here, and yet, they are being politely asked to “make preparations to leave” the country. The grounds for refusal, like “the inability to prove self-sufficiency”, are often vague and/or perfunctory. Just as the reassurances are.

Smile and wave, boys, smile and wave!

However, hope dies last, as they say, and it is certainly true for David Davis. Although to be fair, there is a slim chance that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union will be deported or sacked as a foreign nurse in case of a hard Brexit. Still, one starts to wonder – where does this fellow get such a positive attitude from?

For instance, would you associate any of these statements with a prompt and happy Brexit resolution?

Maybe the adamant “We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically” by Arlene Foster?

Or the firm “I don’t see any reason to change the text (of the agreement reached with the UK)” by Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach?

Or is it the tired and resigned “It was not possible to reach an agreement” by Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission?

One would need to possess a bottomless… let’s call it optimism, to see these declarations in a positive light. Apparently, against all odds, to David Davis, all of the above sounded like “progress has been made!”. Which is what he announced to the British House of Commons today. His next statement, “We’ve not yet reached the final conclusion”, was met with boisterous laughter from the MP’s. Or maybe it was hysterics, who knows. This response was even more cheerful than the reaction of the MP’s in September, when Mr Davis, in all honesty, declared that “nobody said it was going to be simple or easy.” Evidently, optimism does require some memory loss. Anyway, bright future as a standup comedian lies ahead Mr Davis if he ever wants to quit the political arena. After all, his speeches are always such a roaring success. Literally.

New development in the Brexit talks!

According to Donald Tusk on Twitter several minutes ago, he and Theresa May are “getting closer to sufficient progress” to attack stage two talks in December. Tell me why I like Mondays! Encouraged after my phone call with Taoiseach @campaignforleo on progress on #Brexit issue of Ireland,” – he wrote. 

Today, the British Prime minister is meeting with the European Commission president and the president of the European Council in Brussels. Theresa May has to present workable solutions for the Irish border, the EU citizens’ rights and the Brexit financial settlement. If everything goes well, in two weeks the UK will be able to move on to the Brexit trade negotiations.

Earlier this morning, a special meeting of the Irish cabinet was organised. According to a leaked draft, British and Irish officials have agreed that there will be “continued regulatory alignment” between Ireland and Northern Ireland to protect the soft border. However, it is still unclear if a deal was signed.

Helen McEntee, Ireland’s Europe minister, doesn’t think “that we will have an absolute final text that we will be able to approve.” “My belief – and I think we would all agree in the government in Ireland – is we need to have something that is much clearer than we’ve had to date,” she said.

Ms McEntee fears that any hard border means returning to “the troubles of the past”, referring to the violent political and nationalistic conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted for almost 40 years and resulted in more than 3,500 civilians dead. It ended with the Good Friday agreement in 1998, but now the Brexit talks may put the hard-won peace in danger.

Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, too said that his country “can’t be asked to leap into the dark”, with no formal guarantees from the UK government.

To better understand the Irish-UK Brexit issue

Basically, the Irish side just wants Mrs May to honour the statement she made in her Florence speech earlier this year. “We have both stated explicitly we will not accept physical infrastructure at the border,” she said. And maybe today, for the first time since September, we will see a concrete suggestion on how to make that happen.

Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister, will make a statement on the Phase I Brexit talks this afternoon. The Taoiseach, who has been frequently accused of taking a too aggressive stance towards Britain during the Brexit negotiations, argued that he just wanted some “practical common sense and for people to be able to cross the border.”

If Mrs May doesn’t manage to find common ground on the border issue with Mr Juncker today, the UK will not be allowed to discuss the Brexit trade deal during the Summit in December.

According to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, “if the UK offer is unacceptable for Ireland, it will also be unacceptable for the EU. The key to the UK’s future lies – in some ways – in Dublin, at least as long as Brexit negotiations continue.”

Let’s hope that Mrs May has enough skills to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s left.

Don’t go too far and stay tuned for new updates!

More on the UK Brexit settlement 

Who is Who of the Irish Brexit

We mixed you up a short glossary of terms relevant to the UK-Ireland-Brexit problem. Enjoy!

The Irish terms:

The Troubles – a violent thirty-year conflict regarding the status of Northern Ireland. The conflict officially started with a civil rights march in Derry on 5th October 1968 and ended with the Good Friday Agreement on 10th April 1998. The nationalist minority wanted Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic, and the unionist majority wished it to remain part of the UK. The conflict resulted in more than 3,600 fatalities over the years, with over 50,000 severely injured or psychologically damaged.

The Good Friday agreement, or the Belfast agreement – a peace deal signed by the British and the Irish Prime Ministers in 1998, putting an end to a several-decade conflict in Northern Ireland. Although it was a breakthrough in the peace process, many more years were needed to leave the conflict in the past.

The Northern Ireland peace process – refers to all the efforts to mitigate the conflict started in the 60s, including the Anglo-Irish agreement signed by Margaret Thatcher and the Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald in 1985, The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire in 1994, the Good Friday (or the Belfast) agreement in 1998 and the complete disposal of its weapons by the IRA in 2005.

The Brexit terms:

Hard Brexit means Britain would regain full control of its borders, would likely have to fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules to trade with the European countries as it would lose access to the single market.

Soft Brexit – Britain would still have access to the EU single market and would remain part of the European Economic Area, like Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

In both cases, Britain will lose its MEPs and its European Commissioner and its seat in the European Council.

The EU terms:

EU Task Force – is in charge of planning and conducting the negotiations with the United Kingdom, taking into consideration all the strategic, operational, legal and financial consequences of the Brexit vote.

Guiding Principles on Ireland – guidelines established by the European Commission and the EU Task force. They request to bear in mind the unique circumstances and geographical situation of the island of Ireland in view of the Brexit negotiations. Whatever the outcome, the existing arrangements and agreements between the UK and Ireland must remain. The Brexit negotiations shall not hinder the Peace Process in any way.

EU customs Union – all goods travelling within the customs union are free from customs duties. The goods only need to have cleared customs in one country, then their movement in the union is unrestricted.

Welsh and Scottish governments have right to influence Brexit

May Merkel Welsh and Scottish governments have right to influence Brexit

The Welsh and Scottish governments will have the right to influence the Supreme Court decision on how Brexit should be activated.

The U.K. government is making an an application to review a High Court ruling that MPs must vote on triggering Article 50.

The Supreme Court stated that Scotland and Wales’ highest ranking law officers will be permitted to take part in the appeal.

Prime Minister Theresa May said that work was “on track” on Friday to begin the formal process of Brexit before April 2017.

At a shared press briefing with Chancellor Angela Merkel, after a meeting with EU leaders in Berlin, Mrs May said: “We stand ready to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017 and I want to see this as a smooth process, an orderly process, working towards a solution that’s in the interests of both the UK and also in the interests of our European partners.”

Mrs May was speaking after the Supreme Court confirmed that Scotland’s highest law officer, the Lord Advocate, had been invited to address the court on the relevance of points of Scots law. The Counsel General for Wales will make arguments about the significance of parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law.

The Supreme Court hearing is predicted to start on 5 December and go on for four days, with the decision expected early next year.

So Long, And Thanks for All the Fish!

Tomorrow, on January 16, the European Parliament will vote for or against the restoration of the 1998 ban on electric pulse fishing.

For months, groups representing small-scale fishing fleets and environmental organisations across Europe have been sending letters to the European Commission to encourage the ban: “Not only is the seabed impacted by huge industrial nets, but marine organisms are brutalised — electrocution causes fracture of the spine, bruising, and burns.”

Electric Pulse Fishing in the context

Electric pulsing involves equipping fishing nets with electrodes which send an electric current through the seabed to “tickle” the fish from the bottom of the sea. Electric pulses cause a muscular convulsion in fish which forces it out of the seabed and into the net.

The 1998 ban was partially uplifted in 2006, but it was only meant to be a trial technique for about 5% of Dutch boats. This “temporary measure” has been practised ever since, by over 20% of Dutch fishing fleet.

Many environmental organisations call the practice barbaric and accuse the European Commission of crumbling under the pressure of Dutch fishing lobbies. Although the European Commission states that the practice is safer than the alternatives like trawling, that it reduces bycatch and cuts down on carbon dioxide emissions, so far there has been no concrete scientific proof to support the claim.

Barrie Deas, the chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations  (NFFO), said: “The extent to which pulse fishing is more or less impactful on the marine environment than conventional beam trawling is currently being studied. The outcome of this research will be significant in shaping future policy.”

The outcome of the vote is also uncertain because millions of public subsidies were allocated to support the electric pulse fishing. In the Netherlands, for example, an enormous amount of subsidies are spent on ‘research’, ‘innovation’ and ‘search for best practices’. Since August 2015, at least €5.7 million of public money was spent on the development of industrial electric fishing fleets, 67% of which comes from European funds.

The Public Reaction

More than 200 chefs from Spain, France, Italy and Germany agreed not to use fish caught by EPF

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) calls the technique “industrial-scale electrocution of marine life”. “Proponents defend the electrocution of sea life by saying it is less harmful than the dredging practices currently carried out. This is like promoting cholera because it is better than a dose of the plague,” –  the Trust said.

The IWT wrote to all Irish MEPs, many of whom are already sceptical of the method. Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada worries about the “unknown effects” of electric pulse fishing. “The fact of the matter regarding pulse fishing is that we simply don’t know the long-term effects it will have on stocks or the environment,” – she said. “All we have are anecdotal, and often conflicting reports from various proponents from the industrial sector, many who have vested interests in the practice.


Another MEP, Sean Kelly from Fine Gael, was completely against it. “It goes against the natural way – the nets are sufficient. You’d really have to have very strong research-based evidence that this is better than traditional fishing and conserves stocks better,” – he said.

The topic has even come up during the Brexit debates. Arron Brown, a spokesman for the Fishing for Leave campaign, said: “Nobody in the British public would accept if we went in fields tasering sheep. So I don’t see why we would be tasering fish either.”

All over Europe, protests are still heard against this type of fishing. 200 chefs across Europe pledged to stop using seafood obtained by the electric pulse fishing on January 11. “We refuse to work with seafood coming from a fishing method that condemns our future and that of the ocean,” – says Christopher Coutanceau, a two Michelin stars chef in La Rochelle, western France. Not only this kind of fishing is branded as immoral, but the catches are also reported to be of poor quality, caught while under stress and bruised.

Surprisingly, Greenpeace remains silent on the subject.