Time to 'get on with Brexit' after May wins confidence vote - UK chems

Author: Will Beacham

2018/12/13

BARCELONA (ICIS)--Now that UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May has survived a vote of confidence in her leadership among members of her Conservative party, it is time for the country to get a speedy resolution to Brexit, trade group the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) said late on Wednesday.

May won by 200-117 a vote of confidence in her Conservative party leadership on Wednesday evening.

The poll among Conservative members of parliament (MPs) means she cannot face another leadership challenge for at least 12 months, according to the party’s rules.

May’s victory would also reduce the threat of a hardline Brexiteer becoming prime minister and engineering an exit with no deal, as some politicians favour.

May travelled to Brussels on Thursday to try to win concessions from EU lawmakers in order to placate rebellious MPs in the UK parliament.

There is currently no clear majority for May’s Brexit plan with many MPs, who are unhappy about the potential for a long-term “backstop” arrangement which would leave the UK in a customs union, accepting many EU rules, but without the ability to exit unilaterally.

“Now that this particular political event has been resolved, I hope we can get on with delivering the best Brexit we can for the UK. The Brexit timescale and what happens as a consequence need to be confirmed as soon as possible,” said the CIA’s CEO Steve Elliott.

He added that he hopes the UK parliament will, in carrying out its scrutiny of the Brexit deal, help deliver a future that encourages chemical business to invest in the UK.

Parliament has to make its meaningful vote on the 585-page EU withdrawal agreement before 21 January, leaving very little time before the scheduled exit date of 29 March 2019.

Rejection could throw the entire Brexit process into disarray, leading to the country potentially leaving EU with no deal, another general election, a second Brexit referendum, the so-called Norway or Canada models, or even abandoning or delaying the Brexit process.

According to Paul Hodges, chairman of business information service Ready for Brexit, last night’s vote did nothing to change the legal position around Brexit.

“Under the EU Withdrawal Act, the 29 March 2019 was set as the date when the UK leaves the EU. There is no majority [in parliament] to overturn the current Act so ‘No Deal’ remains the default position: we can all hope that something changes, but hope is not a strategy!”

The map below, from ICIS analytics and consulting, gives an idea of how much EU-UK chemicals trade will be affected by Brexit, based on 2017 figures.

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Top picture: The UK's Prime Minister in Brussels on Thursday
Source: Alastair Grant/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Focus article by Will Beacham