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

The door remains open to the European Union if the UK wants to change its mind on Brexit, the most senior leaders of the EU institutions have said.

In a speech to MEPs, Donald Tusk, the head of the European council, suggested reversing Brexit was still a possibility in his mind. “If the UK government sticks to its decision to leave, Brexit will become a reality – with all its negative consequences – in March next year. Unless there is a change of heart among our British friends.”

Tusk recalled the words of the UK Brexit secretary, David Davis, who said in 2013 that “if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy”. Quoting these remarks, Tusk said: “We, here on the continent, haven’t had a change of heart. Our hearts are still open to you.” (Guardian)

Meanwhile, British hopes of securing an early Brexit transition agreement this March have been thrown into fresh doubt after EU sources warned that an early deal was “not a foregone conclusion” as France tries to drive home its Brexit advantage.

EU sources have warned of bureaucratic delays, legal questions and political opposition from France, which wants to drive home its Brexit business advantage, delaying an early deal. (The Telegraph)

Economy

Nicola Sturgeon has called for the UK to stay in the single market after economic analysis published by her government estimated that Scotland would be £16bn a year worse off in the event of a hard Brexit.

Unveiling the SNP’s economic assessment of the impact of Brexit, the First Minister said the average household income north of the border would fall by almost 10%, or £2,263, if the UK left the EU without a trade deal and fell back on World Trade Organisation rules.

By contrast, she said staying in the EU could result in the UK economy growing by 2.4% if integration of Europe’s single market in digital industries, energy and services intensified. (The Week)

A separate report by the UK research group Oxford Economics found a no-deal “hard” Brexit would cost the remaining 27 EU countries £99.5 billion ($137 billion) in lost trade and output by 2020.

While the UK would still likely be the biggest loser from leaving the EU without a deal — losing out on £125 billion in output by 2020 — the EU would also suffer a big economic blow much higher than previous estimates, Oxford Economics said.

The analysis comes as the UK prepares to enter the crucial second round of Brexit negotiations, during which both sides will seek to clarify their future trading relationship. While most analyses have focused on the impact of a no-deal scenario for the UK, Oxford Economics’ report highlights the risks for both sides should the UK fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, which would result in costly tariffs and increase border delays on goods. (Business Insider)

Politics

The House of Commons voted in favour of the Tories blueprint for Brexit tonight despite Labour opposition.

The EU Withdrawal Bill was voted through by MPs at its third reading, the final Commons hurdle before it gets final approval in the House of Lords.

The bill passed easily by 324 votes to 295, but Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer warned Labour would watch “like hawks” to ensure MPs got a vote on the final deal.

It will appear before the House of Lords by the end of January, where it is expected to receive a rocky ride as it continues its parliamentary journey. (Mirror)

MPs also voted against including the European Charter of Fundamental Rights in UK law after Brexit.

A Labour amendment, tabled in the name of Jeremy Corbyn, sought to retain the provisions in the Charter but was voted down by 317 votes to 299. The EU Withdrawal Bill, which is currently in its report stage in the House of Commons, will transfer all existing EU law into UK law when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

However, it includes several exceptions, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights. (Independent)

In depth

How Brexit has reopened old wounds on both sides of the Irish border. The Irish Question has returned and endangered the peace process. (New Statesman)