On January 29, the United Kingdom (UK) House of Commons voted in favor of UK Prime Minister Theresa May renegotiating with European Union (EU) officials the “backstop” provision of the Brexit agreement. The “backstop” provision would require the UK to remain in the EU customs union and single market until the issue of how to address the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is resolved. Since the vote, an EU spokesperson has reiterated the position of the EU that the current proposed agreement is non-negotiable.
A majority of members of the Conservative party were joined by their coalition partners with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, as well as a few Labour party members, to pass the amendment by a vote of 317 to 301. Specifically, the amendment seeks for the backstop provision to be renegotiated and replaced with “alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border.” May has until February 13 to return to Parliament with a renegotiated deal.
Interestingly, a majority of Parliament also voted in support of an amendment stating the UK would not leave the EU without an agreement in place. In the vote of 318 to 310, almost all Labour party members were joined by 17 conservatives and members of third parties in passing the amendment. All other amendments including one that would have delayed Brexit were defeated.
The clock continues to click as the Brexit date of March 29 approaches. It is yet to be seen if the EU will make any concessions on the current agreement, as the other 27-member states have been uniform in taking a strong position with the UK. We have seen recently a number of member state legislatures pass measures that direct their respective governments to develop plans for a no-deal Brexit possibility. However, there is still a strong desire within the EU and UK governments to reach a deal.
As new Brexit events emerge, we will keep you apprised. While there remains uncertainty revolving around Brexit regarding the impact on workforce mobility, we do know that much will remain the same in the short-term for UK citizens who work and reside in the EU, and vice versa.