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Brexit: the games begin


The Government’s Brexit plans began to take shape in June as negotiations kicked off between the UK – represented by David Davis – and the EU, represented by Michel Barnier.

The UK had hoped that trade negotiations would take place alongside the “divorce” negotiations; however, in its weakened post-election state, the UK Government acceded to EU demands for a more phased approach. The first phase of negotiations will focus on the divorce settlement and the terms of Brexit; trade was absent from a “terms of reference” document published after the first meeting between Mr Davis and M. Barnier.

The result of June’s snap election – a hung Parliament – has forced the Conservative Party to seek support from the Democratic Unionist Party in order to achieve a working majority in the House of Commons. A weakened position has resulted in a more conciliatory tone from Prime Minister Theresa May who has pledged to achieve a Brexit that “commands the greatest possible public support”. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) hailed the Government’s “welcome change in tone”, but wants it to be substantiated by clarity, action and pragmatism.

In the Queen’s Speech at the annual State Opening of Parliament, the Government reaffirmed its commitment to work not only with Parliament and the devolved administrations, but also with businesses and other groups. In response, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) agreed that companies want to avoid “turbulence and confusion” during the transition period, and called for “continuous and constructive engagement” with the UK’s business communities.

The Great Repeal Bill will repeal the European Communities Act of 1972 and end the authority of the European Court of Justice. In a bid to ensure maximum continuity, the Government intends to retain the same laws “wherever practical” after Brexit, in order to achieve maximum certainty for businesses and individuals. The Investment Association (IA) urged the Government to secure a deal that is “reciprocal, reliable and will prioritise financial stability across Europe”.

Meanwhile, over the next two years, the Government intends to bring in new legislation on key areas for Brexit, including immigration, international sanctions, nuclear safeguards, agriculture, fisheries, trade, and customs. Brexit legislation – particularly in areas such as immigration and trade – is likely to take considerable time to debate, and therefore the Parliamentary session is being extended to two years and there will be no Queen’s Speech until 2019.

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