Following a dramatic week at Westminster, here's your need-to-know summary of what's been happening.
What a week!
- The Brexit process reached an impasse last week with the House of Commons unable to pass the Withdrawal Agreement for the third time and failing to agree any alternative means of leaving the EU through indicative votes.
- The initial extension granted to the UK after March 29th allowed only a short delay to April 12th unless the Withdrawal Agreement was passed and so May asked the EU for a further extension to up to June 30th.
- During an emergency meeting of the European Council on Wednesday, the EU offered an extension until 31st October 2019. If the Withdrawal Agreement is passed before this date the UK would leave the EU on the 1st of the following month. The situation will also be reviewed at a European Council meeting in June.
- In the meantime, the UK will be obliged to follow the rules of the EU and will still retain all of its benefits. However, the European Council has stated that the UK ‘must not jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives’ during this time given its status as a ‘a withdrawing member state’.
- The UK must therefore hold European Parliament elections on May 23rd-26th if it has not ratified the Withdrawal Agreement by May 22nd. If it fails to do so it will leave the EU on June 1st without a deal.
- The aim for the Government now is to pass the Withdrawal Agreement before June 30th in order to avoid the political difficulties that would be caused by elected UK MEPs having to take their seats in the European Parliament.
- The ‘backstop’ has been the key barrier preventing approval of the Withdrawal Agreement with Conservative and DUP votes. This would involve keeping the UK in regulatory and customs alignment with the EU in the event a future trade agreement cannot be agreed which prevents checks on the Irish border.
- The EU reiterated that it will not open up the Withdrawal Agreement for further negotiation, ruling out any agreement without a ‘backstop’. However, it was said that the Political Declaration could be re-negotiated if the UK changed its red-lines. The Withdrawal Agreement primarily focuses on the rights of existing EU citizens’ in the UK and vice versa, the UK’s financial settlement to the EU, and the Irish ‘backstop’ provisions.
- Some Conservative MPs are concerned about the impact of this on our ability to strike future trade deals after leaving the EU and the DUP worry that Northern Ireland will be kept more closely aligned than the rest of the UK. However, more Conservatives may be persuaded to support the Withdrawal Agreement now rather than risk further delay and a closer relationship with the EU.
- Opposition MPs’ concerns have centred on wanting even closer regulatory and customs alignment with the EU to be part of the Political Declaration on the future relationship with the EU. Discussions have been taking place between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn on these issues but no compromise has been agreed so far.
- If a compromise deal cannot be agreed then there might be further indicative votes in Parliament with a possible run-off between the most popular options, such as a second referendum and/or remaining in a customs union with the EU, against the current Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration.
- The Council and European Parliament have agreed that, following Brexit, UK citizens coming to the EU for a short stay (90 days) should be granted visa free travel. This is granted on the condition of reciprocity from the UK, the UK government has stated that it does not intend to require a visa from EU citizens travelling to the UK for short stays.
The Federation Campaign
We, on behalf of all of our member organisations, had been stressing how vital it is that we do not crash out of the European Union today. As we outlined in January, the Federation has repeatedly highlighted the dangers of crashing out of the EU without a deal. While the knowledge that we will not be crashing out today is positive for our sector, we will be continuing to work with government and with industry to fight for the best possible deal for the creative industries during Brexit negotiations. Within the many discussions around negotiation outcomes, our position has not changed that we believe a second referendum to be preferable to crashing out
We will continue to passionately advocate on behalf of our members, demonstrating the fundamental importance of achieving the outcomes highlighted in our Brexit Red Lines document in 2017 in order to ensure the future success of our sector.
1. Retain freedom of movement for (a) EU workers, (b) those in education, and (c) touring exhibitions, shows, musicians and their support teams and equipment. This should be combined with significant reforms to the UK’s international immigration system so that creative businesses have access to the permanent and temporary staff, and freelancers, they need. See here for more details.
2. Ensure frictionless trade between the EU and UK for creative goods and services. If we are no longer part of the EU Single Market and Customs Union, a free trade agreement with the EU must introduce frictionless trading arrangements for goods and services. This should include continued recognition of the Country of Origin principle from the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, the free flow of data, the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, and the tariff free circulation of goods. See here for more details.
3. The importance of EU programmes, such as Creative Europe, Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+, and develop equivalent programmes, such as the Shared Prosperity Fund, which meet the needs of the creative industries. These programmes have been pivotal in facilitating partnerships and collaboration, as well as providing investment that has enabled the UK’s creative industries to innovate and thrive. See here for more details.
4. Maintain a robust and properly enforced Intellectual Property regime. Regulations which underpin rights including copyright, EU trademarks and designs (including unregistered designs) should be preserved fully within the UK, without imposing regulatory burdens or costs on rights owners.