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More Brexit chaos as government suffers more defeats

UK parliament rejects a no-deal Brexit

Brexit

The UK Parliament comprehensively rejected a no-deal Brexit in an evening of high drama yesterday, leaving the government in disarray as 13 ministers defied the instructions of Prime Minister Theresa May.

While the sentiment of insisting that the UK mustn’t leave the EU without a deal will be welcomed in many quarters – and the value of sterling has been on the rise in the aftermath of the vote – the reality is that it has no legal status, and under the law the UK is still due to exit on 29 March regardless unless Article 50 is revoked to halt the Brexit process.

Nevertheless, the rejection of a no-deal will please the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). The trade body’s CEO Mike Thompson said yesterday that while the industry has done all it can to prepare to crash-out, “we have always said that in a ‘no-deal’ scenario we could face the very real possibility of disruption to the supply of some medicines”.

The ‘Brexishambles’ will lurch on today with a vote on delaying Brexit, again something that Parliament can wish for but which is entirely out of its hands. That would have to be agreed by all 27 of the other EU member states, with just one dissenting vote enough to veto any extension to Article 50.

It seems inevitable that an extension will now be sought, and the big question now is what form that will take. May seems determined to try to drum up support for her deal despite being heavily defeated on two occasions, and will likely be pushing for an extension of a few weeks to try to persuade Brexiteer elements in her party that her deal is better than the risk of no Brexit.

The EU27 appear united in insisting that an extension will only be granted if the UK comes up with a credible reason to do so, such as a plan backed by Parliament as a whole, and that could involve a much longer extension, with the UK expected to contribute funding to the bloc as a quid pro quo.

That also takes Brexit beyond the next round of European Parliament elections, which means that legally the UK would have to field candidates for seats. Either way, the confusion and uncertainty surrounding Brexit isn’t going to diminish anytime soon.

May said after the votes to reject a no-deal that “the options before us are the same as they always have been”, warning that the risk of a long delay to Brexit – or no Brexit at all – is getting stronger.

“The legal default in EU and UK law is that the UK will leave without a deal unless something else is agreed. The onus is now on every one of us in this House to find out what that is.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reiterated calls for a general election and said that he would now work towards finding a cross-party compromise solution, and there is a sense of growing support for a second referendum to try to end the impasse at Westminster.

The message from the European Commission was as follows: “There are only two ways to leave the EU: with or without a deal. The EU is prepared for both. To take no-deal off the table, it is not enough to vote against no-deal – you have to agree to a deal. We have agreed a deal with the prime minister and the EU is ready to sign it.”

Spring statement

The Brexit shenanigans continue to eclipse other government business, but it’s worth noting the Spring Statement by Chancellor Philip Hammond, which included some welcome announcements for the biopharma industry.

That included a £45m block of funding for the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) near Cambridge for genomics research, £79m for a super computer in Edinburgh and £81m for a laser facility in Oxford, noted the BioIndustry Association (BIA).

In a blog post, BIA’s head of policy and public affairs Martin Turner also welcomed a change to the immigration system that he said would benefit the biopharma sector, namely that from the Autumn, PhD-level occupations will be exempt from a government cap on numbers.

The government has said it will also update the immigration rules on 180-day absences, “so that researchers conducting fieldwork overseas are not penalised if they apply to settle in the UK”, said Bates.

Article by
Phil Taylor

14th March 2019

From: Regulatory

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