U.K. Parliament Supports New Brexit Deal but also Delay

Uncertainty related to Brexit continues, despite progress on an agreement with EU leaders on the terms of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU.

 Last week, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson reached an agreement with European Union (EU) leaders on a new agreement on Brexit outlining the terms of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. Leaders of the 27 EU member states signed off on the deal soon thereafter, but the U.K. Parliament must still approve the agreement. Getting a majority of Parliament to agree to the initial Brexit agreement had proven elusive for former U.K. PM May and is now a challenge with the new agreement for Johnson.

On 22 October, Johnson did get further than May when Parliament voted 329 to 299 in favor of the second reading of the legislation on the new Brexit agreement. However, Parliament then voted 328 to 308 against the motion to expedite the process for further consideration of the legislation. The latest vote places the bill in limbo and sets the stage for the U.K. not leaving the EU by the current 31 October date.

Under the law passed by the U.K. Parliament on 5 September, Johnson had until 19 October to either reach a deal on Brexit or receive the support of Parliament to leave the EU without a deal. While Johnson did reach an agreement, Parliament tabled passage of the legislation and Johnson sent an unsigned letter to EU leaders requesting a delay in Brexit until 31 January 2020. Johnson also sent a second signed letter stating his opposition to an extension.

EU leaders have been waiting to see how consideration of the new Brexit deal played out in U.K. Parliament prior to stating whether they will grant an extension. Since the developments of yesterday, EU leaders have indicated an openness to an extension. The U.K. government is, however, preparing for a hard Brexit on the 31st.

An extension does provide Johnson the opportunity to further push the agreement through Parliament or, as he has indicated, ask for a general election before the end of the year, which would put Brexit in the hands of the newly elected Parliament. The question is whether the outcome of the elections would strengthen or weaken his position on Brexit.

The agreement on Brexit that Johnson reached with EU leaders closely follows the original deal. The primary difference is removal of the “backstop,” which would have Northern Ireland continue in the EU single market and customs union. In its place is a complex system by which Northern Ireland is part of the U.K. customs union but also the EU single market with checks at the ports for goods transferring between the EU and U.K. as well as the application of tariffs.

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How This Will Impact Mobility

As for the workforce mobility industry, the uncertainty as to the details and timing of Brexit remains, making it difficult to plan for the mobility of employees.

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