The European clock is ticking  

by Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy and Public Affairs’ Manager
8 September 2017

Brett AmphlettAs MPs returned to Westminster this week, it's a good time to outline the situation about leaving the European Union. Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy and Public Affairs’ Manager, highlights the positions being taken below and explains what the BMF has been doing since the Prime Minister triggered the EU Article 50 clause. 

The main players

The formal negotiations began on 19 June. The UK team is led by David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, who was Minister for Europe in John Major’s Government. Mr Davis also chaired the Public Accounts Committee when Tony Blair was the Prime Minister.  

The EU Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, was the European Commissioner responsible for financial services and the internal market before taking up his current role. In France, Mr Barnier was elected to the National Assembly and served as a government minister including as French Foreign Minister. The European Parliament has a say in ratifying whatever proposals are hammered out. Its Chief Negotiator is Guy Verhofstadt MEP who is a former Belgian Prime Minister.  


The Conservative Government set out its proposals and the direction it wants to take in the Brexit White Paper published on 2 February. Following the General Election, the minority Conservative Government gave more details about legislative changes it wants to make; negotiating ‘red lines’; and future legal, tax and funding arrangements. Most of the proposals are well-known: (a) taking back control of our laws; (b) controlling immigration; (c) maintaining employment rights and consumer and environmental protection; and (d) trade agreements with Europe and other markets.  

The European Commission in Brussels has set out the collective views of the other 27 EU Member States. In essence, the negotiating positions can be boiled down, as follows:  

  • leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union entirely
  • taking Britain out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg·
  • no longer paying billions of pounds in EU financial contributions
  • bringing down net migration to tens of thousands
  • protecting the rights of British people who currently live and work in Europe (and vice-versa)
  • “no deal is better than a bad deal”.  

  • Britain cannot stay in either Single Market or Customs Union without sticking to ‘four freedoms’ laid down in EU treaties - namely freedom of movement of goods, people, services and capital
  • UK must pay a financial ‘divorce’ settlement - a figure of €75 billion is often mentioned
  • negotiations must be done in sequence, not in parallel - talks on Britain’s departure and a financial settlement to be concluded first before the EU will talk about a future trade deal
  • deciding on method of resolving EU-UK disputes post-Brexit - i.e. European Court of Justice
  • prioritising the unique position between Northern Ireland and the Republic to avoid a ‘hard border’ and the reintroduction of border controls and customs’ checkpoints
  • protecting the rights of Europeans who currently live and work in UK (and vice-versa).  


In July, ministers published the EU Withdrawal Bill - often called “Great Repeal Bill” - as draft legislation for Parliament to scrutinise now that MPs are back. The aim is to pass a new Act of Parliament to incorporate existing EU Regulations and Directives into UK law so they apply after Brexit. Ministers also propose to give themselves the power to change secondary legislation.  

In the Queen’s Speech (21 June), 8 new pieces of draft legislation were announced. The most relevant to BMF members are a Trade Bill, a Customs Bill and an Immigration Bill:  

  • Trade Bill aims to boost the UK as a global trading nation; protect UK firms from unfair trading practices; and allow an independent trade policy to operate the day after Brexit
  • Customs Bill aims to introduce a customs’ regime to replace the EU Customs Union we currently belong to; allow for future deals with the EU and other world markets; and impose new British indirect taxes (current VAT will no longer apply because it is an EU tax)
  • Immigration Bill aims to abolish EU law on free movement and bring migration policy for EU people back under UK law to control the number of people coming here from Europe.

This article appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of the BMF's One Voice magazine