September 16, 2020
Last week’s Brexit bombshell was the Johnson’s Internal Market Bill, to protect UK/NI trade and the EU reaction to demand withdrawal of the proposed law by end of September or no October talks and a no-deal Brexit.
The supremacy of Parliament is not even being defended by British Parliamentarians who say an international treaty is sacrosanct and you cannot change a full stop or a comma, which of course is very laudable and very British, but certainly not what happens in other member states, e.g. Spain.
Negotiations on a trade and security deal, nevertheless, stagger on as planned. Informal talks continue for the next two weeks, culminating in the ninth round of negotiations from 28 September to 2 October. The end of September is also a moment of reckoning: the EU has threatened to take legal action. If the UK ignores this, it is hard to see talks continuing. The passing of the first stage of the bill with a 77 majority has called the EU’s bluff.
If the Government backs down on the Neill amendment giving the last say to parliament, a Brexit deal may be back on the cards. Talks will intensify. But time will be tight: one of the few things the Prime Minister and the EU agree on, is that any deal must be done in October. Johnson has said there needs to be an agreement by the EU leaders’ summit on 15 October, if it is to come into force by the end of the year. The EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has set a deadline of the end of October. His officials have deliberately pencilled in an extra two weeks, expecting a final sprint to the finish after the summit.
The Brexit transition period ends on 31 December, but both sides, especially the EU, have a lot of work to do to get the treaty ready on time. If, and when, Barnier strikes a deal with his UK counterpart, David Frost, the EU will have to accelerate legal processes and political decisions that take far longer in a conventional negotiation.
British and EU lawyers will go through the text with a fine-tooth comb to check for errors, a process known as “legal scrubbing”. The document will have to be translated into most or all of the EU’s 24 official languages. Meanwhile, some EU27 governments must consult their national parliaments – even if no ratification is required by national and regional assemblies – to guarantee political backing at home.
Whilst the Government is still embroiled in Brexit, domestic problems mount.
Close to half a million redundancies are likely to be announced in the autumn, although the number could end up exceeding 700,000, according to a study that lays bare the scale of the Covid-19 jobs crisis facing the UK.
These job cuts are on top of 240,000 redundancies officially recorded by the Government up until June. That means the total redundancy figure for 2020 could top one million.
In a bleak warning, the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), which published the analysis, said the number of jobs likely to be lost “will almost certainly exceed anything we have experienced in at least a generation” – far exceeding the peak reached in the last downturn, just over a decade ago and the highest since at least 1995.
The result of lockdown and still facing a possible winter Covid upsurge and a hard Brexit,
This sequence of events could spell the end of a possible deal or the end of Johnson.