Pushing back Brexit? Industry welcomes possible Article 50 extension and some clarity on “breaking the logjam”
15 Mar 2019 --- After struggling to agree on how the UK should leave the EU, British MPs voted last night for a delay to the Brexit process. A potential delay and some clarity has been welcomed by UK food and drink manufacturers, but the CEO of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has warned that a follow-through on intentions with actions is now essential.
“Last night the House of Commons (HoC) began to indicate its preferred way forward to break the Brexit logjam. Clarity on that has been long awaited and is welcome. However, as the focus moves away from a March 29, 2019 exit date towards a later date, we must not overlook that March 29 is still the date in the Withdrawal Act,” says FDF CEO, Ian Wright.
“It is critical that MPs now follow-through on their intentions with actions. The government must swiftly agree the length of delay with the EU and table a statutory instrument to change that date. Only then can the diversion of time, effort and money towards no-deal planning be halted,” he adds.
Last night, MPs voted by 413 to 202 to seek an extension to Article 50 – the legal mechanism by which the UK is due to leave the EU. The idea is to push back the Brexit deadline from March 29 to June 30 but this is on the condition that MPs finally accept the deal put forward by UK Prime Minister Theresa May – something which has already been massively rejected twice. There is also another stumbling block. The Brexit deadline is legally binding, and can't be extended without the agreement of all 27 other EU countries.
There could be further talks about the possible conditions for an extension before the EU summit which is due to begin in Brussels on Thursday, March 21. However, if MPs were to approve May’s Withdrawal Agreement before this summit, which means it going back to the House of Commons (HoC) to face yet another vote, May could then request another? extension until the end of June from the EU.
On the other hand, if May’s deal remains unbacked, there could be a much longer delay which would then mean the UK will take part in the European Parliament elections in May.
Monumental vote of Brexit voting
Over the past week, a series of Brexit votes have taken place in the House of Commons (HoC) starting with UK MPs rejecting Prime Minister Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement for a second time after May claimed to secure “legally binding” changes to the deal following further UK-EU talks. However, this was rejected by 149 votes.
MPs voted again on Wednesday to reject the UK ever leaving the EU without a deal, under any circumstances.
But this is not legally binding and, according to current law, the UK could still leave without a deal on March 29, unless something else is put forward.
At the same time, the UK Government revealed its temporary zero tariff regime for a no-deal scenario, which has caused major concern to certain sections of the UK food industry. Tariffs would still apply to 13 percent of goods imported into the UK, which includes a mixture of tariffs and quotas on beef, lamb, pork, poultry and some dairy to support farmers and producers who have historically been protected through high EU tariffs.
Among those critical of the tariff regime is Meat Industry Ireland which claims the proposed approach on tariffs and import quotas in a no-deal scenario presents a “massive threat” to Irish meat exports to the UK, particularly for beef.
As this mammoth week for voting on Brexit issues wraps up, the massive divisions within British politics – and the Conservative Party in particular – are more tangible than ever. Chaos, confusion, disunity is the order of the day and next week will likely bring more of the same as the EU Summit begins and more votes could be scheduled in UK Parliament. Meanwhile, the EU has indicated that it wants a longer deadline so now the question remains “How long will Brexit be pushed back?”
By Gaynor Selby
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