Brexit and Public Procurement Reform: What Next?

Eight months ago, by giving formal notice under Article 50 TEU, the United Kingdom formally started the process of leaving the European Union (so called Brexit). This has immersed the UK Government and EU Institutions in a two-year period of negotiations to disentangle the UK from EU law by the end of March 2019, and to devise a new legal framework for UK-EU trade afterwards. The UK will thereafter be adjusting its trading arrangements with the rest of the world, and the Government has recently stated its intention for the UK to remain a member of the World Trade Organisation Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). Continue reading

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To break Brexit talks deadlock the EU must agree ‘sufficient progress’ has been made – what does that mean?

The next stage of the Brexit negotiations hinges upon two words: “sufficient progress”.

European Council meeting, 20-21 October 2016. European Council Flickr  CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

At the European Council meeting on October 19 and 20, leaders of the EU27 will review developments in the Brexit negotiations and establish whether they believe enough progress has been made in the first phase of talks to move on to the second phase. That would allow discussions to begin on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

The term “sufficient progress” is embedded within the European Council’s negotiating guidelines for Article 50 – the part of the EU treaty which governs how a state leaves the bloc. It is born out of the EU’s phased approach to the Brexit negotiations, which was later confirmed by both the EU and the UK in June 2017.

The ongoing first phase of Brexit negotiations is focused on finding solutions to three key issues: the status of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK, the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the settlement of the UK’s financial obligations.

Agreeing whether there has been been sufficient progress means solving these three key problems. What the agreed solution ought to look like, however, is more elusive. Continue reading

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North-South Free trade Agreements – Trade, Policy and Europe

At the University of Bristol Law School, we are investigating the dynamics of negotiation, implementation, and enforcement of North-South trade agreements.

The following is a record of the findings of the panels speaking at an event held on 4 October 2017. The first panel (Clair Gammage, Maria Garcia and Tonia Novitz, chaired by Phil Syrpis) examined the external policies of the European Union (EU) particularly in the context of regionalism and free trade agreements (FTAs). The second panel (Emily Jones, Sophie Hardefeldt and Gabriel Siles-Brügge, chaired by Tonia Novitz) examined how the UK could – in the event of Brexit – depart from or improve on the practices of the EU.

EU policy relating to North-South trade agreements

Clair Gammage (Bristol) discussed the transformation of the EU’s relationship with its trade partners across the African, Caribbean, and Pacific regions and was able to point to the surprising small victories that low-income countries in the Global South had achieved when negotiating trade agreements with the EU. Continue reading

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Repeal bill paves the way for a removal of rights after Brexit

File 20170904 10777 ffrmia
via shutterstock.com

Phil Syrpis, University of Bristol

One of the central planks of the British government’s legislative agenda ahead of Brexit, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, will begin its second reading on September 7 as MPs return from their summer recess.

The government’s aim for the bill, originally known as the “Great Repeal Bill”, was to “convert the body of existing EU law into domestic law”, so that parliament can decide what to keep or repeal once the UK leaves the bloc. This was to ensure that, “as a general rule, the same rules and laws will apply after we leave the EU as they did before”, so as to reassure citizens and businesses.

But the bill falls far short of providing citizens and businesses with clarity and certainty. Instead, it paves the way for the modification and removal of rights that currently exist under EU law. Continue reading

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Scoping the impact of Brexit for NHS procurement

Dr Albert Sanchez Graells, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Bristol Law School

Dr Albert Sanchez Graells, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Bristol Law School

NHS England spends over £20 billion every year on goods and services. A significant part of the remainder of NHS non-salary budget involves the commissioning of health care services. This expenditure and commissioning is controlled by NHS procurement rules, which in part derive from EU law. NHS procurement rules are regularly criticised for imposing excessive red tape and compliance costs, and calls for NHS procurement reform to free it from such strictures are common.

In this context, Brexit could be seen as an opportunity to overhaul NHS procurement and to move away from the perceived excesses of EU law. This post concentrates on two issues. First, does EU law prevent significant reforms of NHS procurement and, if so, can Brexit suppress such constraints? Second, is the way Brexit is unfolding conducive to an improvement of NHS procurement? Continue reading

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It’s in the EU’s interest to press ahead with Brexit negotiations

The extraordinary outcome of the UK general election and the uncertain domestic political climate has led to calls by Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon for a “short pause” in the Brexit process. Despite this, Brexit negotiations are now scheduled to begin on June 19.

Nieves Perez-Solorzano Borragan, Senior Lecturer in European Politics, University of Bristol

There are no advantages for the EU in delaying or pausing Brexit negotiations. It is ready and waiting to negotiate an orderly British withdrawal

Limiting the uncertainty caused by Brexit has been at the core of the EU’s narrative since the Brexit referendum. Delaying the negotiation process only prolongs uncertainty about the direction of Brexit. Meanwhile, the EU is eager to address other challenges such as the refugee crisis or an increasingly unpredictable international environment. A pause would also increase legal uncertainty: there is no agreement on whether it is legally possible to stop the Article 50 process, so the Court of Justice of the EU might have to intervene.

The UK Negotiating Position

The UK’s negotiating position outlined before the election appears under pressure as the prime minister, Theresa May, no longer has a parliamentary majority to sustain it. And as the negotiations start, the Government has not been forthcoming in making public its Brexit priorities after the general election, so the assumption is that they have not changed. Continue reading

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The many Brexits of Bristol

Bristol strongly supported Remain but not all of its component parts did. Ward-level data reveals who voted for what, why, and thus how we might move forward as a community.

Figure 1 How Bristol voted in the EU referendum, ward by ward, with a high Remain vote in red and a low Remain vote in yellow. The original interactive map can be found on Bristol247.com who kindly gave us permission to use this image.

At odds with much of England, the City of Bristol voted overwhelmingly for Remain in the EU referendum, with 62% as opposed to 38% for Leave. Hundreds marched through the centre of Bristol to show their dismay the day after the referendum result. At the same time, recently available ward level data indicates the outer areas of Bristol including Bishopsworth, Hartcliffe and Hengrove were majority Leave. Just as a picture of a deeply divided country emerged on 24 June 2016, can we understand Bristol as a microcosm of modern Britain? And what exactly does it mean to vote Leave in a city which was enthusiastically Remain?

On 4 April 2017, the University of Bristol hosted a workshop on local communities as part of the wider initiative ‘#BristolBrexit – A City Responds to Brexit’. Working closely with local residents, city officials, stakeholders, practitioners and charities in Bristol, the workshop sought to include a balance of participants between central Bristol and the outer estates. The workshop participants identified the challenges we face post-Brexit with a particular focus on Bristol, including the racism and prejudice faced by minority communities, ensuring the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and the general sense of insecurity and uncertainty brought on by the Referendum result. Built into the design of the workshop, the conversation then turned to ‘who is missing?’. Large segments of our local communities, including young people, abstainers, and Brexiteers are still missing from the Bristol-Brexit discussion. Continue reading

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What will Brexit mean for the future of European student mobility?

The UK government’s stance on immigration will likely cost British students their access to Erasmus+. How will UK universities keep their students thinking globally post-Brexit?
As Brexit negotiations gather momentum, the time has arrived when we must consider how we can successfully navigate the next two years. The UK must think about how we will fill the Brussels shaped void, the implications of which will soon start to become clear. It’s a void that will loom large in my professional life as my colleagues and I consider the future of European student mobility without the Erasmus+ programme.

If the results of the referendum caught us by surprise, I’m determined that we will be prepared for any outcome that the negotiations deliver. And, moreover, that along with other stakeholders, we take an active role in helping fill that void and shape it into something that can be a worthy successor to Erasmus. I was recently invited to take part in an excellent workshop “Projecting Bristol and Britain to a Post-Brexit World” organised by Dr Nieves Perez-Solorzano and Professor Michelle Cini from the University of Bristol. This was a good opportunity to start thinking about how we can proactively participate in Brexit discussions and this short piece considers some of those ideas with regards to international student mobility.
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Bristol, Brexit and the creative challenge

Bristol’s creative industries give the city a strong starting point for taking the city global post-Brexit. But it will need support to succeed.

Graffiti on wall of person with a flower

Street art in Southville Bristol. Heather Cowper/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc)

Brexit is framed as both a threat and an opportunity – the loss of the EU market and the free flow of talent against the chance to work across the whole world. The creative industries already work globally – our music, films, TV, design and digital products and services are renowned. We also benefit from the free flow of talent – up to 50% EU citizens in sectors like visual effects – and investment from European cultural programmes. And, of course, Europe is a huge market and English remains the key language of the industry.

Combined with the devolution of powers within the UK, this has created a matrix of changes which all reinforce one thing – we’re heading for “the City and the World”. As a biologist with 30 years experience in factual TV, this resonates with basic ecology, which I believe provides the philosophy to deal with complexity and develop the right response to the coming change.

Creativity is a very human industry, in production and consumption. The energy within the ecosystem comes from individuals with talent, and there are skills shortages. We need to be able to draw on a wide range of talent, and ensure the Tier 2 visa arrangement aligns to needs – currently they are too restrictive in the definition of ability and salary level required. The industry exists predominantly as a collection of microbusinesses, and we do not have the capacity to sponsor individuals in visa applications.
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Automatic transformation of EU citizenship rights is the way forward

The British Home Office has created a bureaucratic nightmare for EU citizens applying for permanent residency. Might there be a better way forward?

According to official figures there are over three million non-UK EU citizens living in the United Kingdom, many of which live in Bristol. Following the referendum of 23 June 2016 and the notification by the UK government to withdraw from the European Union many of those citizens are naturally feeling anxious about Brexit and the future of their rights in this country. What will happen to them once the UK leaves the EU is still unclear. In the Guidelines Following the UK’s Notification under Article 50 TEU adopted on 29 April 2017, the EU 27 recognise that “the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the Union creates significant uncertainties that have the potential to cause disruption”, notably for “[c]itizens who have built their lives on the basis of rights flowing from the British membership of the EU [and] face the prospect of losing those rights”.

Clarifying the status of EU citizens could have been done unilaterally by the British government. It chose not to, however, arguing that the status of UK nationals in EU states also needed to be addressed and reciprocal rights offered. Although the issue was raised in parliament during the debate over the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill legal uncertainty remains. The European Union has on several occasions stressed that finding a solution to this issue was paramount and needed to be tackled at an early stage of the Brexit negotiations. Indeed as stressed in paragraph eight of the EU 27’s guidelines, “[t]he right for every EU citizen, and of his or her family members, to live, to work or to study in any EU Member State is a fundamental aspect of the European Union”.

This was the main theme of the workshop ‘Bristol in Flux: Suspended Citizenship’ organised by the University of Bristol on 3 April 2017 to which we, as lecturers in EU Law at the University of the West of England and authors of the textbook European Union Law, were invited. One of the subtopics broached at the workshop was the fate of long-term EU residents who seem to be most affected by Brexit. The debate predominantly centred upon two themes of immediate practical relevance: first, the conditions for obtaining a UK status, and second, the processes and practicalities of transforming their EU status into a UK status. Continue reading

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