As the March deadline quickly approaches, the UK economy has quivered with uncertainty: the housing market has hit a two year slowdown; the legal sector is facing a skills shortage, as more firms consider the location of their business post Brexit and consumers are more reluctant to use legal services as they become increasingly responsive to price.
When Theresa May wandered on to the podium outside Downing Street yesterday evening following a five hour negotiation to get the Withdrawal Agreement through the Cabinet, the country waited with anticipation to hear the direction that the UK will take once we leave.
What followed was a continuation of the consistent message May’s government have expressed throughout the Brexit process: further uncertainty with the added expenditure of a £39 billion withdrawal settlement.
In effect, the draft withdrawal expresses the plans for how the UK leaves the EU, claiming that it is not the permanent deal on our future relationship with the EU.
Essentially, the 585 page document details an 21 month extension to the UK’s inclusion in Europe; however, the document details that “the joint committee, before 1 July 2020, adopt a single decision extending the transition period up to 31 December 20XX,” placing us is a position of political purgatory whilst an actual agreement can be made.
The transition period has been created as an intentional and mutual agreement to allow the EU and UK governments and businesses more time to plan for Brexit. Unfortunately, extending the uncertainty could have the adverse effect, catapulting us into additional economic turmoil.
Many prominent figures have already opposed the Draft Withdrawal Agreement including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Junior Northern Irish Minister, Shailesh Vara, with the former’s resignation potentially signalling the inevitable dismissal of the Prime Minister.
Amongst their concerns is the issue of the UK’s role in Europe following the March 29th deadline. The document indicates that the UK will remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which means the UK will abide and adopt any ECJ laws during their extension period, but will lose any input into decisions.
The Draft Withdrawal Agreement claims: “decisions adopted by institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union before the end of the transition period, or adopted in the procedures referred to in Articles 92 and 93 after the end of transition period, and addressed to the UK or to natural and legal persons residing or established in the UK, shall be binding on and in the UK.”
Paddy Ashdown has tweeted: “With Raab gone May becomes a gonner. With May gone the Tories will not be able to find anyone to unite behind. And so the great unravelling begins. If you want a playbook for what next, look to the Tory civil wars of the Corn Laws in 1846.”
Sarah Jones, Labour MP, tweeted: “Tories like Raab are sniffing around sensing an opportunity to pounce on PM. But to what end? A hard brexit or no deal would never get through Parliament. Options are narrowing.”
Ian Duncan Smith, former Leader of the Conservative Party, said: “ “The very man who is effectively her negotiator – for him to resign saying he doesn’t think this is a good deal, I think is devastating.
“It’s devastating because he’s been aware of all of these things and has clearly been raising these alarm bells with the prime minister.
“But it sounds like he has been ignored, because otherwise I suspect we wouldn’t be in this place.”
Whilst the Draft Withdrawal Agreement has extended the UK’s presence in Europe until 2020, the open ended extension clause will worry many Brexiteers and Remainers alike because our exit has been considerably delayed and our power in Europe has been overwhelmingly diluted.
What will this mean for your company? Do you envision this significantly affecting the legal sector over the next 21 months? Is this a welcome break from the current uncertainty and instability?