Brexit briefing: Weekly news roundup

Unite Brexit Check’s weekly news briefing on the UK’s exit from the EU.

Check back every Friday for an overview of the week’s Brexit-related political, industrial and economic developments.

Brexit negotiations

PM Theresa May has struck a last-minute deal with the EU in a bid to move Brexit talks on to the next phase (December 8).

There will be no “hard border” with Ireland; and the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU will be protected.

The so-called “divorce bill” will amount to between £35bn and £39bn, Downing Street says.

The European Commission president said it was a “breakthrough” and he was confident EU leaders will approve it next Thursday (BBC).

Figures from across the labour movement have given their take on Theresa May’s deal with EU leaders, which was announced this morning.

Richard Corbett, Labour’s leader in the European parliament, said deal on the Irish border “raises an interesting question”.

He said: “If the UK is to ‘maintain full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union which… support north-south cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 agreement’, then does that not mean most single market rules, including those for agriculture, sanitary standards, consumer protection, transport, fair competition and much else?

“Is it a first step to remaining aligned with all of them, to keep the benefits of the single market? Are the government’s ultra-Brexiters really on board for that?”

“The lengthy process of getting here, the questions it leaves unresolved, the chaos and confusion of this Tory/DUP government, raises questions about the prime minister’s ability and competence as we move on to the more difficult talks around the future relationship between Britain and the EU.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the government’s red lines were “getting in the way” of negotiations.

She said: “This moves the UK on to talking about the big issues of Brexit – how we get a good deal that protects workers’ rights, jobs and livelihoods.

But it’s clear the government’s determination to leave the single market and customs unions is getting in the way. The government must drop its self-defeating red lines and put these options back on the table.

And before the next round of talks, we need a sea-change in the way government acts. Ministers need to bring in the negotiating expertise of unions and employers (LabourList).”


Sadiq Khan has commissioned his own assessments of the impact of Brexit on the economy after the Government admitted it has done no such studies itself.

The Mayor of London said he had been forced to act by the “outrageous” omission and has requested comprehensive studies on the effect that Britain leaving the EU will have on nine key economic sectors.

Among those to be assessed are financial services, construction and the creative industries, all of which are likely to be significantly affected by Brexit.

The other sectors to be covered are digital, life sciences, hospitality, culture, food and manufacturing, and science and technology (Independent).

It comes after Frances O’Grady sent a letter to Brexit secretary David Davis with Steve Turner, the TUC General Council’s Europe spokesman, voicing anger about the lack of assessments.

They wrote: “People have a right to know what Brexit means for them, their families, and their livelihoods. They cannot afford for the Government to go into the most important negotiations in a generation blindfolded.”

“Workers also need to know exactly what contingency plans are being put in place for their jobs and industries. They cannot be kept in the dark. We believe that the interests and concerns of working people should be government’s highest priority.

“Ministers meet frequently with business leaders and must ensure they listen to the concerns of worker representatives on the same terms. We need a fresh, transparent, considered, and inclusive approach from government towards Brexit. The stakes are too high to leave things to chance (Huffington Post).”


The House of Lords’ European Union Committee has today (December 7) published a report outlining the consequences of a “no deal’”.

It is the most detailed analysis by any parliamentary committee of the question, and it leaves no doubt that such an outcome would be “deeply damaging” for Britain.

The Lords committee is careful to note that, in the event of “no deal,” EU member states would feel the negative effects of a loss of trade with a major partner. However, the peers are in no doubt about the greater impact on Britain (FT).

Meanwhile Boris Johnson displayed a breathtaking Tory brass neck to the disbelieving world yesterday (December 7).

The Brexiteers’ buffoon-in-chief was quizzed over his previous statement that the EU could “go whistle” for a large Brexit settlement.

May’s chaotic Cabinet have subsequently admitted Britain will have to stump up a humongous £50billion as part of their release from the EU (Daily Record).

In depth

If the EU referendum was the moment the British electorate clashed with the establishment, 8 December 2017 was the day that the legal and economic consequences collided with its political promises. The joint divorce agreementhammered out in the intervening 528 days makes clear that little remains of the many red lines set out by Theresa May in her Lancaster House speech or party conference address of 2016.

The first, and biggest, concession is buried in paragraph 49 of the 15-page report published early on Friday morning. Its implications will be anything but quiet in the weeks to come, for it undermines the prime minister’s previous insistence that Britain will be leaving the single market.

It states clearly: “In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union.” In other words, the UK may not be a member of the single market, or have any direct ability to shape its rules in future, but it could yet have to play by them in perpetuity (Guardian).