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from Helena Raulus of the UK Law Societies

As the debate in the UK Parliament on the ratification of the draft Withdrawal Agreement begins, it is a useful time to analyse the consequences of the adoption (or non-adoption) of the Agreement from a legal perspective.

If the Agreement is not ratified, the main concern is that this could lead to a ‘no deal Brexit’, whereby the UK exits the EU without concluding any overarching deal (or deals) with the EU.

Due to the very different legal mechanisms governing international rules on trade and other areas of cooperation, both the UK and EU will face a distinct fork in a road at the end of March next year.

Ratification of the Agreement will ensure on the one hand that the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 and, on the other hand, that its departure takes place in an orderly manner. The Agreement sets out the framework that provides for a transition period, during which time negotiations for a new EU-UK relationship can take place, in addition to new agreements with third countries.

The ratification also guarantees the package of rights for UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK, as well as the Northern Irish backstop after the transition period (the backstop will become applicable only if the new agreement requires specific measures to be taken).

A ‘no deal Brexit’, in contrast, will bring an immediate end to EU-UK cooperation and the existing legal framework. The trading and legal relationship will change abruptly and the UK will revert to a third country framework, where there are no special trade agreements to facilitate relations.

The pressing question in this situation is: what can be introduced quickly to help the continuation of trade and cooperation between the UK and EU?

The first question is whether the Withdrawal Agreement could be applied in parts in this situation. It would be useful to mitigate against the worst effects of a ‘no deal Brexit’. However, this is doubtful as in this situation Article 50 will have run its course and will not be applicable anymore.

In this scenario a new UK-EU agreement would need to be negotiated under the rules set out in the EU Treaties. This comes with the consequence in that if a matter falls under national competences, the new agreement will need to be ratified not only by the EU itself but also all of the member states. This would be case in particular with regard to the transition period, as it aims to replicate the full EU legal framework, and deeply covers both EU and member state competences. The Treaties are clear in that, for example, internal market rules fall under mixed competences, not under exclusive EU competences.

Consequently, any measures taken will need to be assessed through the prism of who has the power to adopt the initiatives agreed. This leaves three options.

The first is where the EU and UK can take unilateral measures to facilitate trade in a ‘no deal Brexit’. For example, the EU has the power to declare adequacy or equivalence with regarding to passporting for financial services and data flows.

However, where there is a requirement of reciprocity, things may not be so straight-forward. This is the case for example in relation to visas, where the EU declared that is willing to waive visas for UK citizens, but only if the UK does not require EU citizens to apply for visas.

Then there are areas where a specific agreement between the parties is generally required to provide for reciprocity.

It is possible to conclude an agreement between the EU and the UK, or between an EU member state and the UK. It is also possible to conclude a mixed agreement, where the EU, the member states and the UK are all parties to the agreement.

The quickest form of agreement to ratify is one where there is an agreement between the EU and the UK. This type of agreement requires a reading in the European Parliament and the member states to sign off in the Council. However, this process can be used only where the EU has exclusive competence – for example with regard to the trade in goods and services, but not internal market access, for example.

In all other cases, where the EU does not have exclusive competence, it is possible to work out bilateral agreements with the member states. It would be possible to make a mixed agreement with the EU and all the member states, but the negotiations of these agreements are complicated, not to mention the ratification which usually takes at least a couple of years. Therefore, bilateral negotiations may be the quickest route should the UK find itself in a ‘no deal’ scenario.

However, it must be kept in mind that any bilateral negotiations cannot breach or infringe upon the exclusive competences of the EU. Trade in goods and transport are of particular interest here, as one of the crucial priorities in a no deal situation would be to ensure that food and medicines can reach the UK market.

As a result, the consequences of a ‘no deal Brexit’ would set the UK on a very difficult and radically different path compared to that of the Withdrawal Agreement. This is a path from where it will take time to recover and reach the agreements needed to fully resume trade between both blocs.

A version of this article has also been published in the November edition of the UK Law Societies’ Brussels Agenda.

On Thursday 25th October, the British Chamber’s CEO Glenn Vaughan met with Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab for a landmark meeting alongside representatives from chambers across Europe. Glenn shares his thoughts following the meeting:

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There’s no certainty – but more clarity and confidence can be built

Last Thursday I was part of a delegation of national chambers of commerce that met Secretary of State, Dominic Raab, Brexit Minister Robin Walker and the top officials from his department. Countries represented were Germany, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark – as well as Britain.

The message from our own members was supported by detail from our expert Future Relations Committee, and echoed loudly by national chambers representing 70% of all EU-UK trade:

  • No-deal is not an option – for either side. It would create very severe disruption for everyone.
  • When a withdrawal agreement is finalised, the next phase of negotiations must proceed quickly. There’s no room for a leisurely go-slow while the EU manages its institutional changeover or London lines up its ducks.
  • Regulatory alignment is extremely important if we are to get close to ‘frictionless trade’ in a future agreement.

The need for certainty underlies everything we have to say, but right now it is a long way off. Each new piece of progress only reveals the next cause of uncertainty. An agreement at a hoped for November European summit will need to be approved, especially in the UK parliament.  Once a withdrawal agreement is sealed, that’s the point from which we can start to work towards clarity – step by step.

We expect both the UK and the EU to take that opportunity to specify a clear destination and make clear and practical steps towards it, building confidence as they go. Another period of putting off decisions, until the next cliff edge is reached, is no good for anyone.

Day in the life of Schaake (1)

A Day in the Life of Marietje Schaake MEP

Nine years ago, I was elected as a Member of the European Parliament. Although I have been around for quite some time, I can honestly say that not a day goes by where I do not learn new things and meet new people. It is the dynamism and intensity that makes this job so special.

I usually start my day by walking to work. It is spring in Brussels now, which makes the walk from my home to the Parliament very pleasant. After I arrive, I always read the news. I think it is important to start the day by understanding what is going on in the world. Events that happen in the United States or the Middle East affect European politics as the world is truly connected, both offline and online.

This particular Wednesday my first meeting starts at 8.30. Today I exceptionally have no committee meetings or meetings of my political group. During any week, my schedule is quite hectic as I divide my time between Brussels and the Netherlands. This morning I have the opportunity to meet two fellows from the European Parliament’s Sakharov Fellowship. The fellowship is granted to human rights defenders from all over the world. Yesterday I also spoke at the 30 years Sakharov anniversary conference and now I have the chance to learn from the fellows from Jordan and Lebanon in person. For my work in the subcommittee on Human Rights, personal exchanges with human rights defenders are key to gain an understanding of the situation in other countries.

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After several other meetings, I need to rush to an interview with France 24 about the export of chemicals to Syria. On 18 April the Belgian news magazine Knack revealed that three Belgian companies were being accused of exporting chemicals to Syria, including isopropanol, a substance that can be used in the production of sarin nerve gas. The reports are worrying because the export of chemicals to Syria would mean a serious violation of European sanctions against the country. The war in Syria is one of the most horrendous conflicts of our time and I believe Europe should do anything within its power to bring the war to an end, a view I continue to express in my capacity as a member of the committee on Foreign Affairs. Upholding European sanctions is one of the ways to work towards this goal. I told France24 that Europe is as strong as its weakest link and member states should exercise their authority to stick to their commitments.

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At noon I am off to a briefing on digital trade and e-commerce at the British Chamber of Commerce | EU & Belgium. During the ride I quickly check my emails and the news to stay up to date. The British Chamber asked me to speak about digital trade and e-commerce today due to my report on a European digital trade strategy, adopted by the International Trade committee in December 2017. The report calls for a digital trade strategy that enables the EU to combat new forms of digital protectionism and promote its values. I always like these kind of meetings to be as interactive as possible and to have a real conversation with the participants. An important part of my work is to communicate with representatives of public and private parties about European policies and the motivation behind them.

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Back in the Parliament I have a meeting with a human rights defender from Kenya. She is taking part in the Shelter City program in the Netherlands, whereby the Netherlands provides temporary shelter to human rights defenders at risk. The Shelter City programme actually originated from the “European Shelter City Initiative”, introduced by the Czech Presidency of the EU in 2009. To hear about the human rights situation in Kenya is of special interest to me due to my experience in the country. In 2017 I was the chief observer of the European Union to the Kenyan elections. During my time in Kenya I had various meetings with representatives from civil society, who as it turns out are very much connected to the work of the human rights defender I am meeting today.

After the meeting I have just enough time to eat a very belated lunch before I go on to moderate a panel during the ALDE conference on EU cyber defence policy.

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From one panel to another, from cyber defence to digital trade. This evening I am participating in a panel discussion on digital policies together with the European data protection assistant supervisor. The audience is a group of 100 Italian students, who are in Brussels for a three day masterclass. I very much enjoy talking with young people about the European Union and its challenges and opportunities. The Italian students are clearly well-informed and passionate about Europe. The event reminds me the youth is crucial for Europe’s future!

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I’m often asked what daily reality is like for British MEPs in the European Parliament, where we are still fully fledged members, but the prospect of Brexit casts a long shadow.

In my case, as Leader of the Labour Party MEPs, I spend most Tuesdays in London attending the Shadow Cabinet, the Labour Party National Executive Committee and other meetings. My role is to bring the perspective of the Labour MEPs into these deliberations. Sometimes that is bringing specialised knowledge, sometimes simply representing the views of my experienced team of Labour MEP colleagues. Together we collectively represent all parts of the country and come from all wings of the Labour party, but share a view that we must avoid the costly, catastrophic, chaotic Brexit to which we now seem to be heading.

Strangely enough, the routine work of an MEP is largely unchanged. We, with our colleagues, still examine and vote on proposals for EU legislation (most of which will still affect our constituents for many years to come, whatever happens). We also exercise oversight on the Commission, adopt the budget, approve or reject international agreements entered into by the EU, and so on. In light of this, we continue to engage with constituents: individuals, businesses, trade unions, local authorities and other stakeholders.

Our colleagues from other countries broadly accept this. Any animosity is directed at those British MEPs (UKIP and some Conservatives) who led the charge to Brexit, and especially to those who still want to use their position to rubbish the EU or even disrupt it. Most British MEPs do not fall into that category. And our colleagues largely understand that we are acting in good faith.  After all, we don’t represent the UK government, we act as representatives elected (proportionally) in our regional constituencies (by voters not exclusively British), using our judgement and expertise to do what we think is right.

So much of our time follows the daily pattern of most MEPs; parliamentary committee meetings, debates in Parliament and political Group meetings (groups in the European Parliament are international alliances of parties of similar political views; the UK Labour Party is a member of the Socialist and Democratic Group). In all these arenas there are negotiations on compromises; within our Group, between Groups or between Parliament and Council. Some of the most influential MEPs are skilled negotiators.

But Brexit inevitably creeps in, with the UK government still unable, two years after the referendum, to define its opening position in the negotiations on what a future post-Brexit relationship between Britain and the EU would look like. New costs, new problems and new divisions are arising every week, and public opinion is not rallying behind the result of the referendum, as had been expected, but now moving toward a new “people’s vote” on the final Brexit deal.

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The yearly charity baking competition organised by the Brussels New Generation, the young professionals group of the British Chamber, is back for a 6th edition!

About the charity…

CHS small logoThe event, like in the past years, will raise money for the Community Help Services (CHS), a Brussels-based non-profit organisation that provides a free 24/7 confidential English-speaking helpline.
Their work is extremely important for the expat and local community and they seriously need our help to continue the amazing work they’ve been doing so far. So this year more than ever we would like to raise as much as possible for CHS.

About the theme…

In the past years we have seen amazing cakes in all shapes and sizes, showing off the teams baking abilities as well as their creative talents.

After the sugar paste feast of the previous years, induced by our wacky themes and categories, we thought that coming back to the art of simple baking would be very welcomed by the audience as well as the jury.
Therefore, this year we are going back to baking basics, hence the tagline Bake to Basics (get it? Bake –Back, shout-out to our intern Luca for coming up with it).

And the categories for the 2018 edition are…

categories Bake to Basics

The teams will be sorted into categories on the 4th of May live on the Brussels New Generation Facebook page.

About participating…

You can join in the fun in different ways:

  1. Register a team of max.4 and get baking for a good cause. Click here for more information and team registration.
  2. If you are not much of a baker you can join us as a taster on the evening of the 28th of May  (tasters registration will open on the 7th of May).
  3. You can also become a CHS Donor, a Drink Sponsor, or Gift Donor. For more information on that feel free to contact Francesca@britishchamber.eu.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

 

 

 

Eva Maydell is a Bulgarian MEP in the EPP Group. She is a member of the IMCO committee and substitute in ECON. In 2017, she was elected as President of the largest pro-European organisation European Movement International and the first woman to take this position in the organisation’s history.

We caught up with her a couple of weeks ago for another insight into the day to day lives of MEPs at the European Parliament.

Three years into the mandate, there is definitely not a single day that was the same as another. I’m constantly racing against time. Don’t get me wrong, I love this dynamism of my job and it’s definitely one of the reasons why I love doing it.

January 24th, the Bulgarian Presidency has already started and I consider this as an opportunity to promote my country in every possible way. Because of the Presidency, I believe many people in Brussels and Europe will see that Bulgaria is a vibrant European member state, giving opportunities for businesses and young entrepreneurs to develop their ideas.

Making our way through the Brussels traffic en route to the Committee of the Regions, where I am about to open the conference on building the entrepreneurial ecosystems of the future. Traffic could be a slight boredom, yet I try to make use of this time and speak with my team over the phone, planning the day and quickly going through e-mails. Here I am, arriving at the CoR and it is exciting to meet and talk with representatives from regions across the EU, see the energy and passion they put into creating the right conditions for entrepreneurship to thrive.

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On my way back to the European Parliament, I managed to squeeze a phone interview on the Western Balkans. It is crucial for the EU to be involved in the processes there for reasons of stability, solidarity and security. Quickly passing through the office to get some documents and I am rushing on to the ECON Committee to hear Bulgarian Minister Goranov outlining the Bulgarian Presidency Priorities.

I head off to the first Board Meeting of the European Movement International which I am President of. Upon my election as President of EMI I stated that we must try to bring more Europeans to the project through uniting all pro-European forces of the continent, by starting and supporting the real, bottom-up pan-European debate on the Future of Europe, while positioning EMI as a cornerstone organisation that reaches beyond the European institutions [run on sentence]. It is crucial also to ‘win’ the hearts and minds of the next generation, to encourage them to feel European and call themselves Europeans, for a more united, stronger and inspiring Europe; one that doesn’t fail on its principles. Today’s board meeting was one to try and map out how we will achieve this ambitious agenda.

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Going back to the Parliament, I’m passing by my favourite place to grab a fresh orange juice. In the hectic environment of the EP I really try to make time for fresh juices, vegetables and fruits in order to I keep my body and mind energised.

Kicking off my last event on the agenda today. I have the pleasure to bring together the Bulgarian Minister on Education and my fellow colleagues across the different political groups to discuss quality education and a new pilot project, partnered with Teach for Bulgaria. The project is an excellent example of increasing teachers’ motivation and upskilling them so they do not feel alone in the important task to bring up the future generation of Europe.

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After closing this meeting, I go back to my office to prepare for the next day, touch base with my team on constituency issues, committee files, and update my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Home sweet home, where time is irrelevant and my son and husband give me a priceless serenity.

 

The British chamber blog is written by guest authors and does not reflect the views of the chamber.

Infirmiers de rue – pioneers in the idea of Ending Street Homelessness

It all started with two young nurses, Emilie and Sarah, who were convinced that street homelessness is not a fate, and something we do not have to accept. In 2005 they created the non-profit organisation Street nurses in Brussels. Their job initially consisted of taking care of the health of the homeless by cleaning wounds during their trips through the city and going to meet the most vulnerable people in our society. Quickly they realised that their health is not getting any better on the street. Therefore, these people need a home. Over the years comes the awareness that in order to have housing, housing opportunities must be created.

Building bridges

There are a lot of social services providing food, shelter, clothes, showers, and other resources to the homeless, but guidance is lacking. These people are so vulnerable they need professional help to get out of the street, and this is where we come in. We are building bridges between the most vulnerable people in our society, their environment, and health care services.

Street nurses is convinced that in order to end homelessness, we have to work on three major components for a global approach to face the problem. First of all, our dynamic team of nurses and social workers actively goes out and finds people living on the street. We accompany our patients for several years, guiding them from the street to a stable home, and continue to follow-up on them even after they have moved in to prevent any return to the street.

As our organisation aims to build bridges between the homeless people and the different existing services to help them, we are glad to share our knowledge and experience with other professionals who encounter them. This year, more than 340 people benefited from the hygiene & vulnerability training that we organise.

There are some facilities for homeless people like public fountains, toilets, and showers, but they do not especially know where these are located. This is why it is important to work on infrastructure and access to information. We make these facilities effective by helping people to get to know them with maps which are regularly updated. We also spread information about hyper- and hypothermia prevention, as well as other sickness prevention.

100 people out of the street

Working on these three aspects at the same time has proven effective, because by now more than one hundred homeless people in Brussels have returned to a much safer, healthier and more enjoyable life and are now living on their own or in institutions, according to their needs and thanks to our services.

 Not only were we able to rehouse more than one hundred vulnerable people, but we also changed the mentality in this field. The organisation was a pioneer in believing that we can end street homelessness in Brussels, and by now the vast majority of organisations accepts the idea that this goal is achievable in the medium term. We hope that making Brussels free of homelessness will provide an example for other cities in our country and beyond.

 

Our role as a society

As a society, we should invest in support for the most vulnerable people, for they should not be excluded from our society. They should be a priority, because only with the necessary guidance and support can they make a decent living again. The society should put the necessary efforts into making core needs and basic rights accessible, even to the most vulnerable people. Having a roof above your head or enough food and water are rights enshrined in the constitution.

In our daily work, we focus on the hygiene and the self-esteem of every person we follow. We believe everyone has wonderful resources and talents and we try to put these forward, helping people to believe in themselves again. We respect our patients with their own choices and preferences. Every person has their own life story and past to deal with and we respect their rhythm, take the time they need to improve their situation and get them out of the street.

 

Social justice as a solution

Our advocacy for more support and follow-up for the homeless people is part of our vision of social justice. What we want to achieve is equal access for everybody to the different services included in our healthcare system. In order to make this possible, justice is not enough. Justice means that everybody is equal, which implies that the same effort should be done to make some service accessible to someone. In reality, vulnerable people need more help to get access to those same services, because they stay way further behind. What we ask for is social justice, which does not mean that everyone gets the same help, but the same access, no matter how much effort has to be put into certain groups to help them get access. With this definition of social justice, proportionated universalism is made real.

“Resourcing and delivering universal services at a scale and intensity proportionate to the degree of need” (NHS, 2014), also known as proportionated universalism, is the best available solution to help the ones who need it. In this sense, social justice is a value we should cherish and hold dear. The benefits of proportionated universalism are numerous. First of all, in this system, nobody is left apart. The most vulnerable people, but also the people with a precarious lifestyle can get enough help. For society in general, this term is given sense and the end of homelessness is something we can all be part of. Also in our field we can be a source of inspiration for other organisations and services by carrying the idea that it is a matter of rights and that it is possible to achieve our goal, a city without homelessness.

For social services, it is a matter of responsibility to be accessible to those in need, and even if they are mostly favourable, they do not always have the means to overcome the difficulties the care of the patient brings with it. They should get the necessary support to learn how to handle different cases. Being open-minded and showing flexibility in procedures is not a matter of making rules unimportant, it means adapting to your public to help them in the best way you can. The future is in our hands, the solution is ours, and by taking responsibility as a society, we can and will end street homelessness.

Works Cited

NHS, S. (2014, October). Proportionate universalism and health inequalities. Retrieved from healthscotland.com: http://www.healthscotland.com/uploads/documents/24296-ProportionateUniversalismBriefing.pdf

 

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