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Brexit deal looks dead in the water – what now?

Fears of no deal Brexit return after MPs make opposition clear

Prime Minister Theresa May’s hopes of securing a Brexit deal are in tatters today after the resignation of Brexit secretary and chief negotiator Dominic Raab and strong opposition from within her own Conservative party.

Just yesterday the Cabinet agreed to back the compromise deal agreed with the EU, but opposition among ministers and Conservative backbenchers was nevertheless soon apparent. Brexiteers and pro-EU groups both condemned the draft agreement, agreeing that it left the UK neither in nor out of the EU, leaving it with less sovereignty than now.

The resignation of Dominic Raab means the draft agreement now looks dead in the water – but just how the political drama will unfold from here is anyone’s guess.

For business, however, a death knell for the deal means a no deal Brexit, and all of its damaging consequences, is once again a real possibility, after a less than 24 hour reprieve.

pm

Backbench Conservatives and Labour MPs made their opposition to the deal clear this afternoon

Theresa May endured a bruising barrage of largely sceptical questions in the House of Commons this afternoon, with several of her own backbench MPs, including leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees Mogg, intimating that she should stand down or otherwise face a leadership challenge.

The strength of opposition from Brexiteers, and those who are now calling for second referendum, means that there is virtually no chance of the House of Commons voting for the deal.

The Prime Minister told the house that her government would nevertheless press ahead, with the next hurdle being a special EU Summit on 25 November. If the deal were to be signed off by EU leaders, it would then return to Westminster for a 'meaningful vote'.

She said MPs should: “consider our duty to deliver on the vote of the British people – the vote will come when we have a meaningful vote. It will be to the members of this house to determine how they will vote.”

May said the Brexit 'divorce' deal would allow the UK and EU to move onto the even more complex business of agreeing a future relationship, but many in Parliament believe it is a compromise too far.

Conservative MP Sarah Woollaston, chair of the Common’s health and social care committee and a campaigner for a second referendum said it was now “blindingly obvious to most people in this country that this deal cannot pass the House.”

She added: “What they will find unforgiveable is that we are running out of road. In 134 days we will be crashing out with no deal and no transition with catastrophic consequences for all the communities that we represent.”

The PM nevertheless brushed aside calls for a second referendum, and said the public wanted politicians to "just get on with it and deliver" on the 2016 referendum.

The UK’s trade organisations for the pharma and biotech sectors, the ABPI and BIA, were overtaken by events this morning. Both issued tentative statements welcoming yesterday's draft deal. However by the time these were issued, Raab’s resignation had set the plans back to square one.

Ben Howlett

Ben Howlett

Ben Howlett, former Conservative MP and managing director of Public Policy Projects (PPP) says it looks highly unlikely that May will get backing from the MPs she needs: Northern Ireland’s DUP, 40+ Conservative ERG Brexiteers, as well as pro-EU Conservative rebels.

So what now?

“There are now three options, crashing out of the EU without a deal in March, a General Election and remember how the last one panned out…or a People’s Vote," says Howlett. "The [government] whips are going to have to deliver something extraordinary in the coming weeks, they will do everything they can to build support in Parliament.  However, this is looking almost impossible.”

He says there can be no certainty about the outcome, but personally believes that Parliament will go back to the people since they will be unable to agree.

Adding that there are few Parliamentary precedents, Howlett adds that MPs could also seek to extend the Article 50 process to buy time and avert crashing out of the EU without a deal.

“This is the most serious peacetime political crisis of our own making in history. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, this will not be settled anytime soon.”

This instability dragging on towards the Brexit date of 29 March 2019 will also cause major problems for the pharma industry. The sector’s biggest companies have already spent hundreds of millions on no deal scenario planning, but still want to avoid this at all costs, as the scale and complexity of this situation would inevitably hit medicines supplies.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

15th November 2018

From: Regulatory

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