It's been a quiet few weeks in Westminster, with parliament only coming back from the summer break a few weeks ago. Here's Zoe Chadwick from PLMR to explain what all the recent goings-on mean for horses and their owners.
Repeal Bill passes first parliamentary hurdle
Parliament returned from the summer recess a couple of weeks ago and despite MPs being back for only a few days, there's been a significant development on the Brexit front.
Last Monday, MPs voted on the ‘Repeal Bill’ for the first time. You may remember from one of my previous blogs that this legislation will underpin the UK’s exit from the EU, and will make sure that EU law no longer applies to the UK.
This was met with much criticism before the summer, not least because the Bill essentially gives the Government the power to decide which laws to amend, repeal or improve without consulting Parliament – this challenges the notion of parliamentary democracy.
Despite this opposition, and although Labour MPs were instructed to vote against the Bill, it was passed by 326 votes to 290, with all Conservative MPs voting in favour of the Bill and bringing us one step closer to Brexit.
Mind you, there are still a number of opportunities for amendments to the Bill before it becomes law.
A group of MPs (including some of those Conservative MPs who originally voted in favour of the Bill) have put together 157 proposed amendments that they'll seek to incorporate into the Bill over the coming weeks. Watch this space!
How our relationship with Europe will affect horses
Meanwhile the European Union itself has been busy publishing papers on how it envisages the UK/EU relationship working post-Brexit, and these papers seek to clarify the objectives of the EU when negotiating with the UK Government.
These papers cover a range of topics, with the most relevant to the equine industry being the one on the future of the Customs Union and another on Northern Ireland – mirroring the papers published by the UK Government over the summer, which I ran through in my last blog.
A notable point in the Customs Union paper is a proposal that any shipment process made prior to day of the UK’s withdrawal continues to be regulated by EU law until the completion of its export or import. This will be important for any equine businesses who export or import goods to and from the EU.
The EU’s paper on Northern Ireland includes:
- An acknowledgement that Ireland faces some unique challenges, mainly retaining the gains made from the Peace Process, Good Friday Agreement and The Common Travel Area.
- An indication that it's the responsibility of the UK to take account of the sensitive political, economic and societal challenges that face Ireland when negotiating the future relationship between UK and EU.
This paper appears to put the ball very firmly in the UK Government’s court, and no doubt the UK will be keeping this in mind as it further develops its plans for Northern Ireland as the Brexit negotiations continue.
If the UK decides to continue with its proposed commitment to maintaining a flexible Irish border this will help to ensure a smooth process for moving horses and equine goods post-Brexit.
Looking ahead, it'll be very interesting to see what comes out of the party conferences. Party conferences are important opportunities for each party to both reflect on the previous year, and their priorities for the year ahead.
No doubt Brexit will dominate large swathes of speeches, events and policy discussions. I’ll be keeping a close eye on each of the conferences and will report back on developments and what impact they will have on the equine community.