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Is May’s Brexit deal sinking after Speaker's procedural torpedo?

Life sciences firms must keep planning for no-deal - for now

jb

Another week, and another round of Brexit indecision and uncertainty, with House of Commons' Speaker John Bercow throwing the government’s plans into disarray.

Prime Minister Theresa May is hosting an emergency Cabinet meeting today after Bercow drew on a 400-year-old Parliamentary convention to rule that it would not be possible for a third meaningful vote on her withdrawal agreement without “substantial changes” – as it had already been heavily defeated on two occasions.

If that decision remains unchallenged, then the option of a short extension to Article 50 to allow time for May to win over supporters for her deal would seem to be removed, leaving two stark choices: a long extension and the possibility of a softer Brexit or no Brexit at all, or crashing out of the EU without a deal.

While MPs voted to block ‘no-deal’ last week, there is no legal force behind that decision and unless an extension is granted the UK will exit regardless on 29 March – just 10 days away. However, the government seems determined to press ahead with the current deal on the table.

All eyes will be on the European Council meeting on Thursday and Friday, where May is expected to ask for an extension to Article 50, which may or may not be agreed as any one of the EU27 member states can block that happening. The other option to avoid a no-deal is to revoke Article 50 outright – halting the Brexit process entirely.

BioIndustry Association (BIA) CEO Steve Bates wrote in a blog post yesterday that it has “been asked by the Department of Health to ensure that members know that they should continue to prepare for a no deal Brexit on 29 March until that is legally ruled out.”

Bates summed up the frustration felt by industry as follows: “Planning for a fundamental change, that this week seems politically less likely than last week, but could still happen in the next fortnight, is extremely difficult for business planning and contingency to say the least.”

After months of planning how medicines can continue to reach patients in the event of no-deal, “we may be in a scenario where this work is either delayed – for a period of weeks, or months – or put in the dustbin, by the end of the week,” he said.

One MP at least thinks that Bercow’s ruling – based on the Erskine May convention - is not an impediment if May can win a majority for her deal, as that suggests she could also use that majority to force through another meaningful vote.

NB

Article by
Phil Taylor

19th March 2019

From: Healthcare

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