How Brexit will affect UK app developers and consumers

 

Euronews 20 11 18


 

As of 11pm GMT on March 29, 2019, the United Kingdom will officially leave the European Union — an economic and political partnership of 28 countries — bringing to an end 46 years of British membership.

Brexit is set to be the most important constitutional shake-up the UK has known since it joined the then six-nation European Economic Community in 1973, and represents the first time the European institution has lost a member.

The exit date marks the end of the two-year negotiating period formally set in motion when the UK triggered Article 50 of the EU Treaty in March 2017. British people voted to leave the EU by 52% to 48% in a June 2016 referendum.

What have the UK and the EU agreed?

The British government and EU negotiators have struck a provisional agreement on the terms of the separation — the Withdrawal Agreement — and a political declaration on the nature of future EU-UK ties.

The 585-page Withdrawal Agreement is legally binding and settles the key “divorce” issues: the UK’s financial obligations to the EU, citizens’ rights, and arrangements for the Irish border — which will become the only land frontier between the UK and the EU. Both sides agree this must remain open, but the historically sensitive and complex issue has bedevilled the talks.

An exit deal is also needed for a planned transition period to come into effect after the UK’s departure. This is due to run until the end of December 2020, although it could be extended.

During this period many existing arrangements would remain in place, allowing for more time to sort out future EU-UK relations and avoid an abrupt “cliff-edge” exit.

The withdrawal Agreement is accompanied by a much shorter Draft Political Declaration on future relations. This would not be legally binding — but should form the basis for a trade agreement to be negotiated after Brexit.

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UK Prime Minister

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We’ve made decisive progress delivering Brexit. Here is the Draft Withdrawal Agreement and Outline Political Declaration explained.

Will the deal be signed, sealed, delivered?

Despite the provisional agreement between London and Brussels, many obstacles lie ahead on the path to an orderly UK exit from the EU next March.

The accord still needs political backing from:

  • the governments of the other 27 EU countries
  • the UK parliament
  • approval from the European Parliament

EU governments have been considering the text ahead of a planned summit on Sunday in Brussels, where leaders are due to endorse the overall deal.

During the talks, the 27 countries were united in their backing for the stance taken by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.

However, Spain has warned it will reject the draft withdrawal deal unless there is clarification over Gibraltar, a British territory to which it maintains a claim. Meanwhile, France and some other countries have been calling for guaranteed fishing rights in UK waters.

The British government needs the agreement approved at EU level in good time to allow enough time to get it through parliament at home and pass the necessary Brexit legislation.

The ongoing UK row over Europe

REUTERS/Henry Nicholl
Theresa May in Downing Street, November 14, 2018REUTERS/Henry Nicholl

British Prime Minister Theresa May insists the deal is in the national interest and there is no viable alternative. However, it is a compromise and several of the original red lines laid down by Theresa May have been blurred or ditched.

Article 50 a year on: Brexit ‘red lines’ change colour

At the heart of the debate in the United Kingdom is the balance to be struck between two objectives: a desire for independence, sovereignty and autonomy against the need to retain access to European markets, which, the EU has always insisted, means adhering to EU rules.

Echoing the ruling Conservative Party’s decades-long internal conflict over Europe, the deal has brought opposition from both pro- and anti–Brexit wings of the Tory party.

 

The UK parliament: Brexit’s ‘Rubik’s Cube’

REUTERS/Simon Dawson
An anti-Brexit banner in London, October 2018REUTERS/Simon Dawson

The prime minister secured the approval of her cabinet for the draft deal — but only after a long debate. In the aftermath, several ministers resigned in protest and some MPs from May’s Conservative Party formally challenged her leadership.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle of all is the “meaningful vote” promised to the British parliament on the deal. Safe passage is far from secure, and the various potentially complicated scenarios have been explored here.

May’s government commands a thin parliamentary majority thanks only to the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The DUP has vehemently opposed any idea that might separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, and leading figures reacted negatively to the draft EU deal.

Opposition parties have vowed to vote against it. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said it is “a bad deal which isn’t in the interests of the whole country”. Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicolas Sturgeon said it was “dead in the water”. The Liberal Democrats want an “exit from Brexit” and a second referendum.

Tory turmoil

Eurosceptics amid ruling Conservative ranks strongly oppose May’s Brexit plan, with many calling for the UK to leave the EU with no deal. They argue the deal ties the UK too closely to EU rules, compromising independence perhaps far into the future. The European Research Group (ERG) of Tory members of parliament has several dozen members, though exactly how many would vote against a deal is uncertain.

Equally, several pro-EU MPs have also vowed to vote against a deal which, in their view, would leave the UK worse off than it had been inside the bloc.

REUTERS/Toby Melville
Boris Johnson has called the EU-UK deal “vassal state stuff”REUTERS/Toby Melville

Other factors are likely to come into play over a vote. The government and Labour have clashed over whether further options should be possible, beyond a binary choice between the agreement on the table and no deal. A campaign for another referendum has been growing but the potential choices, timetable, constitutional legality and political desirability of such a move have been called into question.

The prime minister has already begun a fierce campaign to get a deal passed, and it has been suggested that backing from business could provide added momentum.

Finally, individual politicians’ minds may be concentrated by the uncertainty and potential chaos that may result if a deal is voted down — with an eventual scenario turning out to be for them, the worst of all options.

Overall, May is likely to need the support of a significant number of opposition MPs to get a Brexit agreement through Parliament. While that is an uphill struggle, it has also been said many times that there is no parliamentary majority for “no deal” either.

January deadline and the countdown to March

By the new year, the UK government hopes to be putting forward new legislation to parliament to implement the terms agreed in a withdrawal agreement. Any later risks not allowing enough time ahead of Brexit day on March 29.

If no deal has been reached, January 21 is the date set by UK law for the government to tell parliament how it plans to proceed.

The EU could reopen negotiations, but this would need an extension of Article 50 of the EU Treaty. The alternative would be no deal, and barely two months left for emergency planning.

A deal between the UK and EU must be passed by the European Parliament, by a simple majority of votes cast at a full session. It must also be approved by EU government leaders from 20 of the 27 countries, representing 65% of the bloc’s population. However, it does not need the approval of national parliaments.

After Brexit day

A successfully ratified deal would pave the way for an orderly UK exit from the European Union, quickly followed by full trade talks between the two sides – which were not allowed while Britain remained a member.

Under the withdrawal terms — and subject to an agreement being ratified — this is also when a 21-month transition period would begin, keeping many existing arrangements in place while allowing for more time to sort out future EU-UK relations.

If no UK-EU trade deal had been agreed by the end of December 2020 — although an extension to this period is possible under the draft accord — the famous backstop would come into force to keep the Irish border open. This would set up a basic UK-wide customs union with the EU, but with Northern Ireland more deeply integrated with the bloc’s rules.

What happens in a ‘no-deal scenario’?

Failure to secure a formal UK-EU agreement by December is likely to see the focus shift abruptly to “no deal” preparations, which have already been set in motion.

Many political leaders, institutions, companies and individuals have warned of severe disruption and economic damage — with the UK being hit worse than the EU. However, some Brexiteers argue that the UK could survive perfectly well under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

The UK government has published a series of papers advising citizens and businesses on the consequences and how to prepare for no deal.

The European Commission’s publication on its Brexit plans — including for no deal — warned of “significant delays” at borders and said there would be “no specific arrangement” for EU citizens living in the UK or Britons in Europe.

How did it all come to this?

Check out our history of the United Kingdom’s complicated relations with the European Union in four parts: