The inside track: January 2019

Welcome to our latest update on events in Westminster that might impact charities. This month we look at the upcoming meaningful vote, an update on Brexit legislation, and whether a no-deal Brexit can be avoided.

Parliament

After being delayed from last year, the ‘meaningful vote’ on the government’s Brexit deal will finally take place on 15 January. The current expectation is that the vote will be lost, and that the government may have to rethink their options. A successful amendment to the business motion by Dominic Grieve (which was controversially allowed by the Speaker) means that, in the event of the vote being lost, the government will have to present what they intend to do to parliament within three sitting days rather than the 21 required by the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

Finance bill

Another successful amendment was introduced to the finance bill relating to no-deal preparations. The amendment means that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the government will face limits in using its tax powers unless there is a parliamentary vote in favour of no-deal.

Brexit legislation and statutory instruments

As preparations intensify for a possible no deal, more attention has been placed on the various pieces of legislation that will need to be passed before March. These will become more urgent as we get closer to the deadline without agreeing a deal (if the deal is approved and ratified, some of this legislation can be passed during the transition period). The Institute for Government has a tracker of Brexit legislation, and the Hansard Society has information on the progress of statutory instruments, which are worth keeping an eye on for progress in your policy area.

People news

Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya has been expelled from the Labour party after being convicted of perverting the course of justice. She will be sentenced later this month, with a custodial sentence of a year or longer automatically disqualifying her from the House of Commons. However, even if her sentence falls short of the automatic disqualification threshold, she could be subject to the recall process to trigger a by-election. MPs have also previously voted to expel colleagues over criminal convictions.

Other appointments

Can we avoid no-deal?

In his new year letter to the sector, NCVO chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington has highlighted the problems that charities could face in the event of a no-deal scenario.

Increasing attention is now being placed on avoiding no-deal, with over 200 MPs this week writing to the Prime Minister asking her to ‘rule out’ leaving the EU without a deal. However, aside from agreeing a deal before the UK leaves the EU on 29 March, the other obvious way to prevent no-deal is to revoke Article 50. Among those 200 MPs (or 300 if you assume everyone who voted for Yvette Cooper’s amendment wants to stop no-deal) who are arguing for no-deal to be ruled out, there are a variety of views on what should happen instead.

So, in many ways, things haven’t really changed at all – a majority for avoiding no deal is not enough on its own. We will only avoid no-deal if a majority forms for either the government’s deal (or a plausible alternative deal) or for stopping Brexit, whether through unilaterally revoking Article 50, or via a referendum. None of these options appear to have a majority currently, so whether we can avoid a no-deal is dependent on MPs changing their mind or compromising when faced with the alternative of no-deal. Unfortunately this means for charities that there will probably be no swift end to the current period of uncertainty.

NCVO can help you to navigate Westminster and Whitehall

Make sure your voice is heard by those making the decisions. We can provide a range of advice, support and training, contact chris.walker@ncvo.org.uk for details.

Our next Influencing Parliament course will be on 8 March. As Brexit continues to limit parliamentary and government time for other matters, it’s even more important that you make effective use of the tactics available to influence through parliament.

We also have a new course, Introduction to Public Affairs, on 8 April. It’s designed to give an overview of public affairs in charities for people who are new to the job, expanding their role into public affairs activities, or would like a refresher of the key principles.

Brexit updates

NCVO is a member of the Brexit Civil Society Alliance, a UK wide alliance of charities, voluntary and campaigning organisations, all working together to ensure that the voices of civil society are heard in the Brexit process.

As Brexit continues to dominate the political and parliamentary process it’s worth signing up to the alliance’s weekly newsletter to keep on top of the latest goings on. You can sign up on their website.

If you really want to keep on top of the latest Brexit news. other useful regular updates worth subscribing to include the House of Commons Library Brexit Digest and UK in a Changing Europe’s weekly newsletter.

We’ve also produced a factsheet for charities to help them prepare for the impact of Brexit.

Feedback

Please do get in touch with me at chris.walker@ncvo.org.uk if there’s anything you’d like to see included, or you have any other comments.

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Chris Walker Chris is NCVO’s public affairs manager, focusing on parliamentary work. He started his career working for several MPs in Parliament, and has also worked in public affairs and policy roles for the Federation of Small Businesses.

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