March 6, 2019
Brexit – status
The UK is scheduled to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019 – in 22 days.
The Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU hinges on securing legally binding amendments to the backstop, the temporary measure to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
A majority of British Members of Parliament have said they would support a deal with these changes to the backstop.
The Prime Minister and her Cabinet are negotiating with the European Commission and EU member states for these legally binding changes.
We recognise there is limited appetite for such a change in the EU - these discussions are not be easy. However, Parliament has made it clear what it needs to approve this Withdrawal Agreement and securing that remains the Government’s priority.
The Prime Minister has confirmed that MPs will have a meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement by 12 March. If MPs reject the Withdrawal Agreement, MPs will be able to vote by 13 March on leaving the EU with no deal. If MPs reject No Deal, they will be able to vote by 14 March on extending Article 50. In this event, extension of Article 50 would still require the agreement of all other 27 EU member states.
Meanwhile the British Government is continuing with its no deal preparations to ensure the country is prepared for every eventuality. It is the responsible thing to do. We are providing information and advice for businesses and citizens to ensure they can also prepare for Brexit and this is available online (gov.uk/euexit).
Trade and investment
Post-Brexit, the UK will also have the ability to negotiate trade agreements with our other partners around the world. The US is our top priority, reflecting that we are each other’s single largest investment partners and do $237bn of bilateral trade. So, immediately after Brexit, we want to negotiate an FTA with the US. UK and US teams have already held five rounds of preparatory talks. The US Trade Representative has sent Congress its request for Trade Promotion Authority as well as its trade agreement objectives.
This is an opportunity to remove barriers to trade and investment in all sectors, particularly those that will increasingly drive future growth and innovation like advanced manufacturing, digital and financial services. A UK-US FTA is a chance to set the rules and framework in these areas for the global economy, as well as growing our bilateral trade.
Seattle and the Pacific North West are an important part of that relationship
This is reflected by the activity that I’ve hosted and organised in Seattle over the last year:
visits by the Trade Secretary, the Home Secretary, and our Ambassador;
visits by our International Development Permanent Secretary, two government Chief Scientists, and the North America Director of DIT.
Plus four visits by our Consul General Andy Whittaker and regular visits by Department for International Trade colleagues from San Francisco and Los Angeles;
And the GREAT and Liverpool Clipper Race yacht activities last April.
It’s not just all trade
Whilst much of what my office does here is trade and investment, it is also about promoting the UK as a leader for science and innovation, highlighting the opportunities of the UK’s Industrial Strategy in areas like AI and digital, clean growth, mobility and ageing. Each of these four grand challenges are huge opportunities for our economies and society in the 21st century.
We also continue to engage Washington State stakeholders about shared policy priorities, such as climate change and tech policy.
I do outreach for the UK’s Marshall Scholarship scheme, which enables young Americans of high academic ability and leadership potential to undertake two years of graduate study in the UK. This year, four outstandingly high achievers from across Washington State students were selected as Marshall Scholars – a record.
And for the first time ever, an official – albeit small - UK delegation took part in the Seattle Pride Parade alongside some of our fellow international colleagues. Our joining the parade reflects our shared support for strong LGBT rights and values of diversity and tolerance. London has one of the oldest and largest Pride marches in the world, so a visible British support for Seattle’s was well overdue. I plan to repeat it this year - please do reach out to me, via BABC, if you’d like to be part of it.
Consul (Business & Government Affairs)
UK Government Office, Seattle