Brexit - 8th October 2019

Wake Smith chairman Nick Lambert looks at the latest Brexit news...

Following the recent Supreme Court ruling over the Prime Minister's prorogation of Parliament, which found the action to be unlawful, we have seen a swift return to the House of Commons by MPs and tensions rising as the 31 October deadline approaches.

As things currently stand, the UK will leave on 31 October with no deal, unless the Prime Minister seeks an extension to Article 50 as he is required to do under legislation passed by Parliament via a Standing Order 24 move, which saw MPs take control of the Parliamentary timetable for the second time in the Brexit process.

Despite the legislative requirement (the Benn Act) placed on him to seek an extension, the Prime Minister remains resolute that he will not undertake to do so, raising questions over what he can legally do to avoid that delay.

Loopholes which may allow the Government to bring the UK out of the EU without a deal speculatively include an 'order of council' to override the Benn Act. This power is generally used by ministers to update the rules and regulations of public bodies, but crucially, does not require the consent of Parliament or the Queen to be enacted.

Another hurdle facing the Brexit delay process is unanimous agreement by EU member states to allow for another extension to Article 50. If just one of the 27 member states chooses to exercise its veto and deny the UK an extension, then we will by default exit the EU on 31 October.

There are still many uncertainties around either of the delay/exit scenarios and as we are witnessing legislative and constitutional changes at a level never seen before in our Parliamentary history, there may be many more surprises to come - none of which are likely to be helpful to UK businesses and the broader economy in the short term.

The PM is due to submit a Brexit 'blueprint' to EU ministers this week, which will be the next stage at which we might see detailed outlines of the proposed working relationship between the UK and the EU.

What is likely to remain contentious is the Irish border issue, which the blueprint must address to the satisfaction of the EU, the Irish Government and Parliament.

To further complicate the process, the Supreme Court intervention over prorogation of Parliament has set a precedent of the judiciary challenging the executive authority, which may irreversibly change the way that UK democracy operates, leading to further legal actions during the course of Brexit.

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