THE LOTUS WEEKLY BREXIT ROUND-UP
Brexit Briefing 1 October 2019
The week beginning 23 September 2019 was a historic one for the UK travel industry as the oldest travel brand in the world went into liquidation. Whilst the company’s financial woes were rightly attributed to bad decisions spanning back many years, Thomas Cook, like all European travel firms, suffered from a series of external blows in recent years, including terrorist attacks, the 2018 summer heatwave in the UK and uncertainty over Brexit which has led to a precipitous fall in the value of the pound. No commentators seriously attributed Brexit to the Thomas Cook failure, but the continuing uncertainty surrounding the UK’s political turmoil has provided a sustained attack on consumer confidence, which the entire travel industry is feeling.
No-surcharge for no-deal pledge by Solmar Villas
Solmar Villas has unveiled a Brexit Assurance Scheme, guaranteeing no surcharges or supplements, regardless of events surrounding the UK’s departure from the European Union. The villa holiday specialist said that it will not increase prices for 2020 holidays that are booked by October 31 – the date that the UK is due to leave the EU.
The promise comes as many travel companies assess the damage of the falling pound to the wholesale cost of holiday products to their businesses’ bottom line.
News broke today (1 October) that the Government has prepared a legal text of an updated Brexit deal and more of the plans will be made public in the next couple of days.
It has been reported that formal proposals on the alternative to the backstop to avoid the hard border have been prepared and been sent to the negotiators and outline plans to have customs clearance centres on both sides of the border – but about 10 miles away from the actual border. This is a step change from what Theresa May’s plans are as Boris Johnson is proposing a customs and regulatory border on the island of Ireland but one that is technologically efficient. However, the standard response to these types of ideas tare that traders would still have to make customs declarations and be tracked and monitored because it would make food, for example, much more expensive, but commentators suggest that these ideas could be worked on to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
Over the past week, Labour has held its party conference and the Conservatives are currently holding theirs. Amongst allegations of Boris Johnson sexual harassing women, the party was in full election swing, promising extra budget for ‘schools, cops and docs’. In addition, Sajid Javid announced a rise in the minimum wage and a Brexit compensation package that will make up any shortfall in EU grants to businesses, universities and charities in the coming decade if the UK leaves without a deal.
The Labour party conference was dominated by intensifying rows over Brexit. Despite many senior Labour politicians backing remain, a motion to adopt Remain as its official stance was narrowly defeated.
Instead, delegates endorsed a rival motion for the party to stay neutral on Brexit at the next election. Many commentators called it a ‘fudge’, but for the party faithful, and Jeremy Corbyn himself they believe the position bridges the divide between Remainers and Leavers by giving voters a final say on Brexit. If the party won power, it would negotiate a deal with the EU which it would then put to a referendum. Whether the party backed its own deal in the referendum or supported Remain would be decided at a special conference.
The conference was interrupted by the announcement from the Supreme Court ruling and Jeremy Corbyn had to bring forward his leader’s speech….
On Tuesday 24 September, The Supreme Court ruled that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament was illegal. The unanimous ruling by 11 judges prompted calls for the PM’s resignation.
Government lawyers had argued that the decision to prorogue was not a matter for the courts, but the Supreme Court concluded otherwise and decided that it was an unlawful decision because it had ‘the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions.” It also said that the PM had not given any reason, let alone a good reason – for suspending the legislature for a good five weeks in the run up to Brexit.
Prime Minister Johnson, who had been in New York at the UN General Assembly, had to fly back early to attend an angry House of Commons, but he agreed to respect the ruling even though he stood by his decision and strongly disagreed with the court’s decision and continued to say that the UK would leave the EU come what may on 31 October.
Back in Parliament
MPs hurried back to Parliament for a febrile session with the Prime Minister. He stuck by his stance t that he wanted to end the current parliamentary session. He also defiantly stated he would not seek a fresh delay to Brexit, even if he does not secure a fresh withdrawal agreement - or MPs approve a no-deal departure - by 19 October.
In an openly hostile session further developments included:
- The government requested for a short parliamentary recess for the duration of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester (approved)
- The prime minister challenged opposition parties to table a no-confidence vote today - refused;
- Mr Johnson did not rule out a second prorogation of parliament in order to allow a Queen's Speech;
- The prime minister was heavily criticised for his claim the "best way" to honour murdered MP Jo Cox was to "get Brexit done";
- Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson revealed she had reported a threat against her child to police;
- Labour's Jess Phillips revealed a death threat against herself;
- Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox declared parliament "dead" and called for a general election.
Mr Johnson used his statement to MPs on Wednesday to tell them he would allow time for a no-confidence vote on Thursday (refused). Opposition parties also called for Johnson to request an extension (refused).