This week, John Major’s reality check on Brexit annoyed the Tories, but not as much as the House of Lords. In the biggest upset of her plans to date, Teresa May has had to face the defeat of her Bill in the House of Lords, where peers overwhelmingly supported a Labour amendment to secure the rights of the 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK. Losing a vote during the committee stage in the House of Lords means the Brexit bill will enter a so-called ping pong between the Houses of Commons and Lords, potentially delaying its passage into law. Applications for permanent residency have risen, as has the cost and difficulty in gaining this. Home Secretary Amber Rudd confirms that the current right to travel and work in different EU countries will not remain when Britain leaves the EU and March 15 has been mentioned as a cut-off date for full rights of residence. Rudd this week also authorized the use of stronger tasers by the police.
The confident words emanating from Downing Street that concessions would not be made may be tempered by the news that peers also plan to reject May’s threat to walk away if EU leaders offer only a ‘bad deal”, leaving Britain out of the EU and dependent for its international trade relations on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. Gina Miller has also warned of further legal proceedings if Parliament is not guaranteed a meaningful vote on leaving the EU. The question remains as to whether rejecting a deal is the prerogative of the UK – Art 50 (3) TEU does not preclude the EU from walking away from the table. It is indeed questionable whether there is a choice – Art 50 says nothing about whether either party can continue negotiations after two years in the absence of formal unanimous agreement for an extension of talks.
Another week, another Le Pen scandal: MEPs voted to remove parliamentary immunity from Marine Le Pen, leaving her open to prosecution. The EP has also thrown the gauntlet down to the USA – in response to US travel restrictions on five EU member states, MEPs encouraged the Commission to impose visa restrictions on travellers from the USA visiting the EU.
Meanwhile German Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to meet Trump in Washington DC on March 14th, just ten days before Pope Francis will address EU leaders at an event in the Vatican to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. The meeting will be the first between Trump and a EU leader since he took office in January. No prizes for guessing which meeting Merkel will enjoy more: while Trump has declared his support for the break-up of the EU, the Pope has praised the EU as a peace project and urged it to take care of refugees.
The 60th Anniversary Summit in Rome will unveil a new vision for Europe in reaction to Brexit. Needless to say, Teresa May will not be present and it is hoped that she will not ruin the party by triggering Article 50 on that day. A list of events in the UK and elsewhere can be found here. During their celebrations, EU Leaders should not however overlook their collective failure to adequately protect vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers, highlighted again this week when the mayor of Calais banned the distribution of food to migrants as part of her campaign to prevent refugees returning to live at the port.
Brexit may in fact help those seeking to get into Britain – trade experts have warned that exit from the customs Union will create queues of trucks at the border, as officials attend to administrative matters.
From the CJEU:
Area of Freedom, Security and Justice: The General Court declares that it lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine the actions brought by three asylum seekers against the EU-Turkey statement which seeks to resolve the migration crisis
External relations: The General Court confirms the validity of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures for imports of solar panels from China
Copyright law: retransmition of TV programmes online within “the area of initial broadcast” is an act of copyright infringement under EU law, if carried out without the permission of the TV broadcasters.
State aid: France must recover €220 million in aid granted to SNCM in respect of certain maritime transport services it provided between Marseille and Corsica
Approximation of laws: The cost of a call to an after-sales telephone number must not exceed the cost of a standard call