Brexit

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For Ireland, the Brexit discussion has focused heavily on the Irish issue. This has meant an unrelenting emphasis on securing a Brexit deal which ensures no border on the island of Ireland, and achieving a backstop provision which guarantees this scenario. The expectation is that this will be achieved in the context of the Withdrawal Agreement, and before the transition phase begins. 
 
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In May 2018, the Leave Means Leave organisation issued a report called ‘Max Fac works: The Technological Solution to the Irish Border Customs Issue’.  The report says that existing technology and best practice is “more than capable of permitting a friction-free border”.   The report was welcomed by pro-Brexit MPs including Sammy Wilson of the DUP who commented that “As this report makes clear – Max Fac is the only option the Government should be pursuing… A

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The issue with trade negotiations is that they are reciprocal negotiations. In order to gain something in a negotiation your country has to be willing to make a concession to the other country. To gain something you have to be willing to give something. On tariffs you have to agree to lower your tariffs in certain sectors in order to make gains in the other country’s market. Therefore, it is important that any time you are seeking to make an advantage you have to be willing to cede something in your own market.

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With little more than six months to go before the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019, the position of Scotland vis-à-vis the EU is not much clearer than it was in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum more than two years ago. The Scottish Government has put the question of a second independence referendum on the back-burner and discussions around a differentiated Brexit deal for Scotland have died down.
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This week, the ESRC-supported project “UK in a Changing Europe” issued a new report on the economic and political effects for the UK of a No Deal. This project uses a collection of experts in law, politics and economics drawn from across the UK. Its members were selected on merit, not on their support or otherwise for Brexit. They had written extensively about trade, migration, agriculture, EU politics etc. well before David Cameron called the referendum.
 
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Canada is a federal state with a division of power between the federal Government and the provinces, with some matters of jurisdiction at the authority of the federal Government, some at the provinces and some split between the two. The federal Government has authority for negotiating and signing trade agreements, but they involve the provinces very heavily in that process. Their approach for incorporating the provinces has been ad hoc rather than formalised in nature and it has also been evolving over a period of several decades.

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A week after the state of intergovernmental relations (IGR) in the UK was highlighted by the UK government’s law officers standing in opposition to their devolved counterparts in the UK Supreme Court, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee published a report on improving IGR after Brexit. Jack Sheldon discusses the methods by which England could gain distinct representation — something it currently lacks — in a new IGR system.

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Brexit is re-making the UK’s constitution under our noses.
 
The territorial constitution is particularly fragile. Pursuing Brexit, Theresa May’s government has stumbled into deep questions about devolution. The territorial politics of Brexit is a bewildering mix of ignorance, apparent disdain, confrontation, cooperation and collaboration. Rarely have the so-called devolution ‘settlements’ appeared more unsettled.
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