17 May 2019

Alison Ryan, London Office, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board


Key events this week:

Theresa May has said this week that there will be a fourth vote on the withdrawal agreement bill during the week commencing June 3. The bill is expected to be defeated again, as it still contains elements that many MPs will oppose, such as the Irish backstop, allowing the European Court of Justice to have a limited role in the UK even after it leaves the EU and the arrangements including in the bill under which the UK has agreed to pay up to €45bn to the EU as part of leaving the bloc. May’s hope of victory rests on that calculation that if the opinion polls are right and Nigel Farage’s Brexit party comes out as the largest winners in next week’s elections, it will scare Conservatives and Labour MPs into voting for her bill. The gamble will likely lead to May’s resignation if the bill is defeated again.

Following on from May’s announcement, Labour warned on Wednesday that it will not support her Brexit deal unless the prime minster makes more concessions, including on ensuring that any cross-party agreement is ‘Boris proof’. Labour is concerned that a Eurosceptic Conservative successor to May could rip up any compromise Brexit deal agreed by the government and the opposition party.

The latest polling on the UK’s European Parliament elections puts Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party ahead of the two major parties. The Brexit Party is expected to win 30% of the vote, while Labour is on 21% and the Conservative Party at just 12%. This would mark the Conservatives falling to their lowest share in a national election since it formed in 1834. The Lib Dems, Greens and Change UK – all backers of a second referendum – collectively have support of 28% of the public, against no-dealers Ukip and the Brexit Party’s collective 34%.

Following on from her meeting with the executive of the 1922 committee Thursday morning, May has been granted temporary reprieve after the committee agreed to let her wait until after the vote on the EU withdrawal agreement bill before she has to set a date for her departure.

The pound hit its lowest level since mid-February as the UK currency reflected a sense amongst investors that Westminster’s cross-party talks seeking a consensus on a Brexit agreement were faltering. Sterling on Wednesday fell 0.5% to trade at $1.2838 in afternoon trading in London, close to its lowest level since February 15.


Implications for Irish food & drink companies:

A fourth vote in the withdrawal agreement is due to take place in the first week on June. The likelihood of the bill being past is low. Therefore, it is crucial that Irish companies continue to prepare for all Brexit possibilities, including a no-deal Brexit. Bord Bia’s support programmes can be found here.

Looking ahead:

  • May has announced that there will be a fourth vote on the withdrawal agreement in the first week of June.
  • European Parliament elections will take place onMay 23.
  • European leaders will hold a symbolic meeting in June to review the UK’s progress.
  • Newly elected MEPs will be taking their seats on July 1.
  • October 31 is the current Brexit deadline.