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24 January 2020

Publish date: 24/01/2020

Sweeping away months of uncertainty, the ever present Withdrawal Act Bill received Royal Assent on Thursday, to be swiftly signed by the European Commission under the authority of Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, President of the European Council, this morning in Brussels. Without pomp or circumstance, Mr Michel said that "things will inevitably change but our friendship will remain". The Treaty is currently winging its way back to London to be signed by the Prime Minister before pinging back across the Channel to be ratified by MEPs next Wednesday.

There were cheers in Parliament on Thursday when the speaker announced the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act with the PM stating that "At times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we've done it," The MEP's Constitutional Affairs Committee Chair, Antonio Tajani was not so upbeat stating "A member state is leaving the EU. It's not a moment for celebration. Although we firmly respect the sovereign decision of the British people, we deeply reject this outcome."

So now the work must begin in order to transition from the EU. What can we expect? Formal talks on a trade deal might not realistically start until March due to the sheer volume of states, with security and law enforcement also requiring new agreement. Industry bodies have today written to home secretary Priti Patel to call for a deep cut in the proposed £30,000 minimum salary threshold for migrant workers after Brexit and worker's rights protection was removed from the Withdrawal Act bill, and will now form part of a separate bill to be announced. Further, unaccompanied children with relatives in the UK will now be the subject of a ministerial statement setting out the policy in late March.

For local government, questions remain around structural funds, the shared prosperity fund and use of LEP's, data flow, environmental standards, worker's rights, chid refugees, state aid and the procurement framework to name but a few. Now that the requirement for the government's negotiating position on the future relationship with the EU to be approved by Parliament has been removed and the political declaration (the non-legally binding document that accompanied the withdrawal agreement setting out aspirations for the future relationship with the EU) no longer has to be in line with negotiations, it is somewhat challenging to make representations on legal proposals we simply cannot see. That said, we can make educated conclusions about the types of issue we should be raising in advance, to try and influence policy before it becomes law.

With that in mind, LLG are looking to establish a working group to come together and feed into the issues we are most concerned about. Very much like our Brexit statement in January 2019, we are looking to cover the fundamental areas that effect our authorities and communities in order to influence at the highest levels to ensure the legal framework, when it arrives, is fit for purpose and workable.

If you are interested in contributing, then please do get in touch.

Best wishes

Helen McGrath

Head of Public Affairs

Helen@llg.org.uk