Brexit: Latest news and what happens next

Brexit | | MIC Customs Solutions |

It has been another busy week as Brexit negotiations continue.

With the deadline for Britain's exit from the European Union fast approaching, it might have been expected that by now, many of the terms and conditions for the withdrawal might have been edging at least some way towards completion.

However, this is not the case. Instead, controversy continues to surround Article 50 and all that entails for the European single market and the UK once they are separated. Here, we'll take a look at the breaking news on Brexit, go through what has been agreed and outline what might happen next for negotiations.

Latest: Government survives vote on trade strategy

This week, a vote took place in parliament on post-Brexit trade strategy. A number of pro-EU Conservative MPs wanted the UK to join a customs union if a free-trade deal could not be agreed with the EU.

However, the government insisted that a customs union would prevent it from striking new trade deals in future.

Theresa May's government won by just six votes, resulting in Brexit now working towards a customs partnership model that would allow for tariff-free trading between members and a common tariff set for imports from the rest of the world.

Essentially, the UK would collect tariffs on behalf of the EU on any imports that were subsequently shipped to a European destination, resulting in businesses being able to claim rebates on goods that go outside the EU.

This is an important result for Mrs May, as there were suggestions that a loss may have led to a vote of no confidence in the government and even another general election or EU referendum.

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington told BBC Radio 4's Today programme such a close vote does not mean the government is in disarray over Brexit.

"When the government doesn't have an overall majority in either house of Parliament, things are sometimes close on votes," he said, adding that the prime minister is "absolutely focused on getting the right deal for the country in negotiations with her European counterparts".

Despite this, hardline Brexit supporters insist that leaving the customs union is essential if Britain is to regain control of its trade policies post-Brexit.

What has been agreed so far

Three main points have so far been agreed concerning Brexit. In December 2017, a provisional agreement was reached that the rights of EU citizens living in the UK (and vice-versa) would remain protected after Brexit; that there would be no hard border created between Northern Ireland and the Republic; and that Britain would have to pay a 'divorce bill' of €50 billion.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis said this was a decisive step, but these factors can only by enacted if a treaty is formally signed, which in turn can only occur if agreement can be reached on other outstanding matters.

Following a meeting at Chequers earlier this month, a White Paper was also published that sets out the rest of the government's plans for future relations with the EU after Brexit.

It reveals that the UK intends to ask the EU for access to the single market for all goods, thereby committing "by treaty to ongoing harmonization with EU rules", although it does not mention services.

The agreement also proposes that the UK "would commit to apply a common rulebook on state aid and establish co-operative arrangements between regulators on competition", although it would be able to block any new EU rules it objected to in a similar way to Norway.

It is still proposed that the UK would collect EU tariffs and use new technology to "remove the need for customs checks and controls between the UK and the EU as if a combined customs territory", although critics have raised concern over the red tape this may generate.

Concern in Europe and abroad

The apparent discord over Brexit has resulted in the European Commission suggesting that the EU's remaining member states increase their preparations for a 'no-deal' result.

Meanwhile, governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney has warned that Britain could face "big economic consequences" and emergency interest rate cuts if it leaves the EU without a deal.

What next?

Despite the publication of what appears to be a decisive White Paper, this remains only what Theresa May's government hopes to see and everything detailed therein must now be negotiated with the EU.

A key EU summit will take place next in October 2018 where Britain and the EU hope to agree a more precise outline of future relations and aim to come to a deal ahead of the Brexit deadline.