Tag Archives: Theresa may

Brexit White Paper Released by UK Government

Alicia Nicholls

The Theresa May Government has today released its Brexit White Paper . The official policy document, which is entitled “The United Kingdom’s Exit from and new partnership with the European Union“, was introduced into Parliament today by Brexit Secretary, David Davis.

The House of Commons yesterday voted overwhelmingly for the Brexit Bill to proceed to the second parliamentary stage – the Committee Stage where it will be subjected to increased scrutiny by Members of Parliament next week. Already, a number of amendments have been tabled for discussion. However, once the bill becomes law, the Government will have the legal authority to make the UK’s notification of withdrawal from the EU under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (Lisbon Treaty).

Setting out the Government’s strategy for its expected upcoming exit negotiations with the EU, the White Paper mostly elaborates on the 12 priorities which had been outlined by Mrs. May in her major Brexit address delivered at Lancaster House last month. The paper reiterated that the objective was not only to build a new partnership with Europe, but to build a “stronger, fairer, more Global Britain”.

Among the priorities identified in the Brexit Strategy are taking control of its own laws, controlling immigration, pursuing a free trade and new customs union agreement with the EU, securing rights of EU nationals in the UK and for UK nationals in the EU, securing new trade agreements with other countries, inter alia. The Plan has received mixed reviews from parliamentarians.

The full White Paper may be accessed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.



Brexit Bill Clears First Parliamentary Hurdle

Photo credit: Pixabay

Alicia Nicholls

The Theresa May government may have lost its Supreme Court Appeal last month but today the Government’s Brexit bill cleared its first parliamentary hurdle. After fourteen hours of debate spread over two days, the House of Commons voted 498 to 114 in favour of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, a bill to confer power on the Prime Minister to notify the UK’s intention to withdraw from the European Union under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union (Lisbon Treaty).

Article 50(1) of the Treaty on European Union provides for any member state to decide to withdraw from the EU in accordance with that state’s own constitutional requirements. Last month, the UK Supreme Court, in dismissing an appeal by the UK government, held that a parliamentary vote was required in order for the Brexit process to begin. It should be noted that many of the parliamentarians who voted in favour of the Bill’s advancement had originally supported staying in the EU. However, many felt compelled to put aside personal views in order to give effect to the will of the 52% of British voters who had voted for Brexit. Mrs. May has reportedly indicated that she will publish a White Paper outlining the Government’s Brexit plans.

So what’s next?

Today’s House of Commons vote (the second reading) means that the Brexit bill is one step closer to becoming law, and will go to the next stage in the parliamentary process – the Committee Stage. During the committee stage, the Bill will be subjected to more enhanced scrutiny and it is here that any amendments may be made.

Upon leaving the Committee stage, the bill (whether or not amended) will again be debated and subjected to a final vote in the House of Commons. If the ayes have it, then it will pass to the House of Lords where the process will be repeated. The bill will be referred back to the House of Commons if the Peers make amendments to the bill.

However, once everything goes smoothly (i.e. there are no further amendments and the peers vote in favour of the bill), the Brexit bill will be sent to the Queen for the royal assent and thereupon will become law. This confers on the May Government the legal authority to make the Article 50 notification which commences the formal withdrawal negotiations with the EU. Mrs. May has indicated the end of March 2017 as her timeline for the notification. She has also promised that she will put the final withdrawal deal to a parliamentary vote.

The full text of the Brexit bill and further reporting on the UK House of Commons’ vote may be found here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

5 Main Points from PM May’s Davos Speech

Photo source: Pixabay

Alicia Nicholls

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2017 currently underway in Davos, Switzerland this week, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, presented what may be considered a follow-up to the major Brexit speech she had given in London earlier this week in which she had outlined her 12-point Brexit plan.

It was the Prime Minister’s first appearance at Davos in her capacity as Prime Minister of the UK and she reiterated many of the main points she had made in her speech earlier this week, focusing most of her attention on Brexit and outlining her plans for building a “truly Global Britain”.

Below are some of the main points from her Davos Speech:

(1) Brexit is not a rejection of Europe

Mrs. May reiterated that the Brexit vote was not a repudiation by Britain of the EU but “simply a vote to restore, as we see it, our parliamentary democracy and national self-determination”. She further explained Britain’s desire to pursue a “bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement between the UK and the European Union” while also being free to negotiate new trade deals with both longstanding and new allies around the world.

(2) UK to be leader of free markets and free trade

To this extent, she expressed the intention for the UK to “step up to a new leadership role as the strongest and most forceful advocate for business, free markets and free trade anywhere in the world”. Mrs. May noted that discussions on future trade ties have already begun with a number of countries, while others have already signalled their interest.

(3) She will build a “Global Britain”

Aiming to dispel the notion that the UK was turning “inward”,  Mrs. May emphasised her desire to build a “Global Britain” which would be in control of its own destiny once again and would help to underpin and strengthen the multilateral rules-based system. She reiterated that she believes strongly in a rules based global order and that “we must continue to promote international cooperation wherever we can”.

Although Mrs. May has  previously highlighted the need to take control of the UK’s immigration policy, she did mention in this speech that the UK derives “much of our strength from our diversity”, emphasing that “we are a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy, and we’re proud of it”.

It is here that her rhetorical tone is strikingly different from that of her counterpart across the pond, incoming US President Donald Trump who has not only expressed his disdain for both the United Nations but called the World Trade Organisation a disaster. Moreover, Mr. Trump has been consistently anti-immigrant, seeing immigration as a threat rather than a strength.

(4) Britain has embarked on “an ambitious programme of economic and social reform”

Mrs. May noted that the UK has embarked on what she termed “an ambitious programme of economic and social reform”. The issues of growing income equality and popular discontent with trade and globalisation have been a consistent theme in the Davos discussions, which is not surprising given the political ramifications which these issues have already delivered.

In tackling these issues Mrs. May outlined what she believed should be the roles of both governments and businesses and that the status quo could not remain. She noted the need for leaders to work together to shape new policies and approaches in order to deliver for all people in their respective countries.

Interestingly, she noted that the role of governments was not to just “get out of the way” as has been the mantra of neoliberal economic theory, but to “step up to a new, active role that backs businesses and ensures more people in all corners of the country share in the benefits of its success”. Turning to businesses, she noted that “it means doing even more to spread those benefits to more people”, including paying their far share of tax and recognising their obligations to their employees, inter alia.

(5) Support for the Compact for Responsive and Responsible Leadership

To this effect, she expressed her support for the World Economic Forum’s new “Compact for Responsive and Responsible Leadership” initiative proposed for signature to all participants of the Annual Meeting 2017. This initiative aims to “create a corporate governance framework with a focus on the long-term sustainability of corporations and the long-term goals of society”.

The full text of her speech may be read here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.


Why PM May’s “Hard Brexit” Choice is no surprise

Alicia Nicholls

In a much anticipated speech delivered at Lancaster House on Tuesday, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mrs. Theresa May, confirmed speculation that the UK’s membership of the European Single Market was off the table, an option which has been colloquially dubbed a “hard” Brexit. The news may be dismaying (no pun intended) to some who preferred a “soft” Brexit (remaining in the single market). However, it is not unexpected given the main reasons why 52% of Britons voted in favour of leaving the EU in the first place, inter alia, stemming the tide of immigration and getting away from the “intrusiveness” of Brussels.

In a speech that was both conciliatory but also declarative, Mrs. May said as much as she succinctly outlined the reasons for the UK’s decision. It should be noted that while serving as Home Secretary, Mrs. May was part of the “Remain” camp during the Brexit campaign. However, during her bid to assume the office of Prime Minister, she  strongly and famously stated that “Brexit means Brexit“. Among the reasons enumerated by Mrs. May include Britain’s “profoundly internationalist” history and culture and the belief that EU membership has come at the expense of the UK’s external trade relations. To this effect, she noted that trade as a percent of UK GDP (an indicator of a country’s trade openness) had stagnated.

She went further by noting the difference in political traditions between the UK and EU, including the incongruity between the UK constitutional principle of parliamentary sovereignty and the power of supranational institutions in Brussels to make laws for the UK, and the inability to hold those institutions accountable. While stressing that she did not wish to see a disintegration of the EU, she ultimately argued that there was need for greater flexibility by the EU if it is to succeed.

12-point Brexit Plan

In her biggest speech since coming to 10 Downing Street, Mrs. May sought to quell criticisms over the lack of clarity of her Brexit strategy by outlining a 12-point plan which would guide the UK’s Brexit negotiations, and with the overarching goal of fostering “a new, positive and constructive partnership” between the UK and the EU.

Mrs. May, therefore, ruled out membership of the Single Market, citing instead her preference for a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) with the remaining 27 countries of the EU.Five main models of arrangement have been proffered in the literature but Mrs. May has strongly stated that she wants a model unique to Britain.

She has stated that the UK would not have to contribute to the EU budget but noted she was prepared to make contributions if there are any specific European programmes in which the UK may wish to participate.

More confusingly, however, was her statement that she wanted to remain a partial member of the EU Customs Union (EUCU), yet still control the UK’s trade policy by not being bound by the common custom tariff or the EU’s Common Commercial Policy. To my mind, this is at cross-purposes. There is, of course, precedent in the EU of countries being in a customs union relationship with the EU, while not being EU members, such as Turkey, San Marino and Andorra  who apply the CET on only certain goods. However, the essential element which differentiates a customs union from an FTA is that parties to a customs union apply a common external tariff (called the Common Customs Tariff in the EU). I am at pains to see how the UK can be a member of the EUCU without being bound by the CET to some extent. In such a case, it would be best to simply just negotiate an FTA.

More Outward Looking Britain

Besides outlining her vision for a future relationship with the EU, Mrs. May also elaborated that she wanted to build “a truly global Britain” and significantly expand its trade with the world’s fastest growing export markets, as well as have its own tariff schedules in the WTO. As an EU member, the UK was bound by the Common Commercial Policy and was unable to enter into third party trade negotiations.

The outward looking Post-Brexit UK is good news for Caribbean countries. As I noted in previous articles, countries of CARIFORUM (countries of the Caribbean Community plus the Dominican Republic) currently enjoy preferential access to the UK market under the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Once the UK leaves the EU, it will no longer be bound under the EPA and Caribbean countries will no longer have preferential access to the UK market. Since the UK is a major trading partner for the region and the region’s largest in Europe, it is within the region’s interest to negotiate some form of WTO-compatible preferential agreement with the UK post-Brexit, even though admittingly the region would likely be at the back of the queue.

On this note, she highlighted her newly created Department of International Trade (headed by Mr. Liam Fox) and mentioned the large queue of countries eager to negotiate an agreement with post-Brexit UK, including the US under incoming President Donald Trump. It is worth noting that recently the Dominican Republic indicated its interest in an FTA with the UK.

Deadline and Preparedness to walk away empty-ended

Of interest is that Mrs. May has stuck to her previously stated end of March deadline for making the Article 50 notification under the Lisbon Treaty (which is the only way the formal process of withdrawing from the EU can begin). The UK Supreme Court is set to render its judgment in the appeal on whether parliament or the executive branch has the power to decide to make the Article 50 notification. Depending on the ruling, Mrs. May’s timeline may not be realistic. Mrs. May has called for a phased-in approach to the withdrawal and has also reiterated that Parliament would have a vote on the final withdrawal agreement.

Highlighting that a punitive approach by the EU would be “an act of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe”, Mrs. May has indicated that she is prepared to walk away with no agreement rather than a bad one.

Reaction in Europe to Mrs. May’s speech has been mixed as this Telegraph article notes.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.