There are now 62 days to go until the UK is due to leave the EU. Whilst the warm words exchanged between Boris Johnson and EU leaders last week have increased hopes of a deal, it is still unclear how far the gap between the UK and EU has narrowed and if the PM would even have the level of support required to pass a revised deal in the House of Commons.
Given these difficulties, and the continuing commitment of the Government to the 31 October exit date, MPs are set to start acting when Parliament returns from the summer recess next week to block a no deal departure, with the most likely route being an attempt to pass legislation to oblige Boris Johnson to seek a further Article 50 extension.
Despite the difficulties associated with it, the legislative approach is currently seen to be more likely to succeed than an attempt to remove the Government through passing a vote of no confidence. The lack of agreement on who would lead a so-called ‘emergency government’ in the event of a no confidence motion being passed as well as Number 10 briefing that the PM would refuse to resign having lost a no confidence vote and then schedule an election for after 31 October, have undermined faith in this course of action amongst anti-no deal MPs during August.
Given that the Government looks unlikely to introduce a Bill of its own (which MPs could amend), MPs are likely to have to pursue other avenues to legislating to block no deal. Currently, MPs look likely to table an emergency debate motion next week, which would seek to carve out Commons time for a Bill to be introduced which would oblige the PM to seek a further Article 50 extension. This would require co-operation from the Speaker of the House of Commons, which is expected to be forthcoming.
However, despite anti-no deal MPs now seemingly uniting behind this approach to blocking no deal, passing a Bill still faces significant obstacles. First, it would have to retain a majority throughout multiple stages of debate in both the Commons and Lords (a similar Bill sponsored by Labour’s Yvette Cooper in April only became law after winning some divisions by a handful of votes).
Second, the Government has now announced that Parliament will be prorogued (suspended) in the first half of September ahead of a Queen’s Speech taking place on 14 October, limiting the number of sitting days available to pass a Bill.
Thirdly, even if the Bill was passed, it would have to be sufficiently ‘watertight’ that the PM could not work around its provisions and still deliver a no deal Brexit on 31 October, for example by requesting an Article 50 extension and then rejecting the terms of the EU’s extension offer. As such, there is still a very real possibility of a no deal Brexit taking place at the end of October.
In light of the continuing prospect of no deal, RYA have continued our engagement with government to discuss how the impact on the recreational boating sector could be mitigated. Following on from an earlier meeting with then Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes, the RYA’s Director of External Affairs, Howard Pridding and Stuart Carruthers, RYA Cruising Manager, met with the Head of Border Security, Visa and Identity Policy at the Home Office earlier this month.
At the meeting, it was confirmed that Brexit will mean the introduction of general maritime border controls that will include recreational boats. The system, yet to be developed, will need to capture information on vessels, voyage details and people on board and it is recognised that this needs to be accessible and user-friendly. Government will not be in a position to implement any new system by the end of October and the status quo will continue until workable systems have been fully developed. RYA and the Home Office have agreed to continue to liaise with each other as thinking on this issue develops.
RYA has also prepared a Brexit Q&A considering a number of boating-related scenarios, based on RYA’s knowledge of the legislation as it currently stands.