Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The extremely bumpy road to Brexit

Government facing Brexit defeat in Lords over EU nationals

The government is facing a first defeat for its Brexit bill in the House of Lords later.
Peers are expected to agree to amend the draft legislation to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd had sought to reassure members that EU nationals' status would be a priority once Brexit talks begin. 
But a cross-party amendment calling for a firm guarantee is expected to secure the backing of most peers.
Baroness Smith, Labour's leader in the House of Lords, said it was a "moral issue" while her Lib Dem counterpart Lord Newby said passing the amendment would "require the Commons to think again".
If this happens, MPs could remove the Lords' proposed changes again when the bill moves back to the House of Commons later this month.
The bill authorises the government to trigger Article 50.
Chart showing EU nationals working in the UK
The rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK after Brexit has been one of the most contentious issues during its parliamentary passage so far.
In a letter sent to every peer, Ms Rudd said a guarantee of their right to stay, however "well-intentioned", would not help the hundreds of thousands of UK citizens living on the continent as it could leave them in potential limbo if reciprocal assurances were not given by the EU's 27 other member states.

When will real showdown happen?

Parliamentary correspondent Mark d'Arcy
View of Houses of ParliamentImage copyrightPA
Image captionThe real flashpoints have yet to occur
If there is ever to be a genuine parliamentary threat to the government's Brexit plans, when might it come?
The main pressure points are a bit further down the road…..The first will come in the autumn when negotiations start in earnest, after the French and German elections are done. 
At that point the EU will present its opening bid, which will probably be a demand for the UK to stump up a considerable exit fee. Will that provoke demands that the UK should throw up its hands and walk away from the EU then and there? 
The battle lines on this are already beginning to form, with talk of legal advice on the enforceability or otherwise of any EU demands. 
Or fast forward to the autumn of 2018 - the point at which the UK's exit package will have to start going before the European Parliament, and maybe EU national and even regional parliaments. 

She said there was "absolutely no question of treating EU citizens with anything other than the utmost respect".
"This isn't just about ensuring British businesses and our public sector have access to the right workers," she wrote.
"We owe it to those many European citizens who have contributed so much to this country to resolve this issue as soon as possible and give them the security they need to continue to contribute to this country."

'Ping pong begins'

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg
Theresa May watches the debateImage copyrightHOL
Image captionTheresa May watched the opening stages of the Brexit debate in the Lords
The letter is not that different to what was sent to MPs previously to try to ease their minds, as the Article 50 legislation made its way through the House of Commons.
It does though appear to kill off the idea that Theresa May will arbitrarily set a cut-off date for EU immigration without having to get MPs or peers onside first. But it is unlikely to spare the government's blushes. Without a further more dramatic concession, they are set to lose.
That will set in train the first 'ping' of the potential 'ping pong' - the parliamentary process where the Lords reject something in the red chamber, sending it back down the corridors to the green benches - daring, imploring perhaps, backbenchers to join with them and push back at the government.
There is no sign at the moment that ministers want to budge on this issue.

Wednesday's debate will begin at about 15:30 GMT with the vote on EU nationals expected some time before 18:00 GMT. 
Earlier this month, MPs passed the bill unamended, accepting assurances from ministers that protecting the rights of the three million EU nationals living in the UK would be a priority for ministers. 
But the government does not have a majority in the Lords, where the 178 crossbench peers who are not affiliated to any party have considerable influence. 
Chart showing UK migrants living in other EU countries
Labour have said they will not delay the invoking of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which the prime minister wants to do by the end of March. 
But Baroness Smith said guaranteeing the rights of the EU nationals was a "sensible step forward" which would help set a positive tone for the negotiations to come. 
"It is quite clear that if we say we are doing this, other European countries will also do it. They are going to follow suit," she told Sky News.
"It is a moral issue but it is also a pragmatic issue," she added.
"Universities and businesses are losing staff that are EU citizens because it is much safer for them to go and work elsewhere."

How might EU immigration work post Brexit?

Media captionMigration Watch chairman on his post-Brexit immigration proposals

Do immigrants increase the average wealth of existing population?

Media captionAcademic: Migration boosts GDP

The stages the Brexit bill needs to go through to become law:

(it is currently at committee stage in the House of Lords)
FLow chart showing how the bill progresses through Parliament

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