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Brexit Briefing

Unwelcome Valentine's Day surprise looks likely for Prime Minister

Last night Conservative MP Mark Francois told BBC News that he and the other members of the European Research Group (ERG) will vote against Ms May's motion on Brexit scheduled for today, citing the fact that it explicitly rules out a no-deal British exit from the European Union.

The ERG is comprised of 50 or so Tory MPs, all of whom favour a hard or no-deal Brexit. Although the ERG do not vote as a bloc, the precarious nature of Ms May's slim majority means that she would be in very real danger of losing another vote if even a handful decide to vote down her proposals or abstain.

Prime Minister May had committed to holding more debates on all possible Brexit outcomes to put paid to allegations that she is simply 'running down the clock' towards a no-deal outcome, yet this commitment has yet to bear fruit. 

In a statement made to the Today programme, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox reprimanded his fellow Conservative MPs for jeopardising the position of the party. He said there is a 'tendency' for MPs to view voting as an 'academic exercise' but that they should remember that European negotiating teams will be watching these debates to gauge whether making concessions is worthwhile, or if they would simply be voted down by a divided Commons.

The vote is due to be held this evening. 



Former Taoiseach appears before Commons committee

Ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern appeared before the House of Commons committee, Exiting the European Union, yesterday to give his thoughts on how the border issue may be solved before March 29, and how a no-deal outcome might affect Ireland's constitutional relationship with the North. The difficulties surrounding the border debate and the implementation of a physical partition have raised many theoretical legal questions, particularly in relation to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Famously, articles 2 and 3 of Bunreacht na hÉireann once asserted claim to 'the whole island of Ireland' and stated that the 'national territory' included all of the 'islands and seas' which surround us. These were amended pursuant to the Good Friday Agreement following the adoption of the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution by popular vote. Article 2 now reads:

'It is the entitlement and birth right of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish Nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.'

Article 3 allows for the re-unification of the island only where it is the will of a democratic majority of the people. Speaking at a reception to commemorate the Easter Rising in 1998, Mr Ahern - being one of the chief architects of the deal - stated: 'the British government are effectively out of the equation and neither the British parliament nor people have any legal right under this agreement to impede the achievement of Irish unity if it had the consent of people North and South' of the border. 

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that when asked by MP Peter Grant whether Ireland would consider 're-joining the UK to solve all of the problems' posed by Brexit, Mr Ahern's answer was an unequivocal no. For further reading on this issue, see the Murdoch and Hunt entry on the Good Friday agreement.



No contingency plan for post-Brexit data flows

It was once remarked that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. For citizens of the European Union, it is fair to say that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) should be added as a third certainty to that list. Since it was introduced in May 2018, GDPR has never been far from the headlines.

On 28 January, the UK Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport issued guidance to help businesses to continue to comply with data protection post-Brexit, clarifying that GDPR will remain in place even in the event of a no-deal. The document notes:

'The UK does not intend to impose additional requirements on transfers of personal data from the UK to the EEA, therefore, organisations will be able to send personal data to organisations in the EEA as they do currently. However, transfers of personal data from the EEA to the UK will become restricted once the UK has left the EU.'

Under current rules, where a third party country outside of the EU wishes to receive transfers of data from entities within the European Economic Area, the country in question must pass an assessment whereby the EU will decide whether or not that country has in place an adequate regime of data protection. The UK is currently pressing for this, however a decision will not be made until Brexit occurs.

The European Union released redacted documents on Monday 11 February relating to a conversation between Vodafone Group plc and Mr Martin Selmayr of the Commission. While this document has no legal effect and is merely annotated minutes of a meeting, the Commission representative makes it clear that no special contingency measures will be put in place to deal with a no-deal Brexit.



Note: This article is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice. Any errors should be notified to the editor and will be dealt with accordingly.

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