Whilst it is often said that Labour would not renegotiate the Conservative's Brexit deal, the nine amendments the party laid down to the Brexit deal that was voted through on December 30th would suggest otherwise. Unfortunately none were selected by the speaker to be voted on.
They can be summarised as the following:
1. The government must report on the economic effect of its Brexit deal - This amendment would have required the government to publish economic impact assessments resulting from the Brexit trade deal it negotiated, every six months, for all the sectors of the economy, in each of the United Kingdom’s nations and English regions.
2. The government must report plans by the end of Feb 2021 to get the UK financial sector full access to EU financial markets - This amendment would have required the government’s proposals to be as close to the EU’s passporting regime as possible. The EU’s passporting regime allows financial firms to set up branches anywhere in the EU and trade across borders with minimal friction. Because the UK is no longer a member of the EU’s single market and the Brexit deal it has negotiated with the EU does not cover financial services, it has lost these passporting rights.
Around 40% of the UK’s financial services’ exports go to the EU, the sector contributed around 10% of total UK tax receipts in 2020 and makes up about 1.1 million jobs.
In order for the UK financial sector to continue to access the EU’s single market without passporting rights, they will either have to comply with the different requirements of individual member states or rely on the EU deciding that the UK’s financial services regime is close enough to theirs that they grant us “equivalence.”
The UK has granted EEA-authorised firms passporting into the UK three years to continue operating, while they seek UK authorisation. However, the EU has not reciprocated.
Equivalence allows for market access in specific areas but does not cover most core banking and financial activities and the EU can remove equivalence decisions with just 30 days’ notice.
3. The government must request access to the EU's security database SIS (Schengen Information System) within six months or an equivalent system if access refused - SIS is the most widely used and largest information sharing system for security and border management in Europe. Before Brexit, the UK police accessed the SIS database around half a billion times every year. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has said that access to SIS was “essential for mainstream policing” and the National Crime Agency has said intelligence agencies “are as concerned about the loss of SIS II as we are.”
4. The government must seek an arrangement with the EU which allows UK artists to display or perform their work in EU countries - Before 2021, artists and their crews could travel freely between the EU and UK without applying for work permits or visas. Now EU musicians touring in the UK must meet certain conditions and require work visas if visiting for over 30 days. For UK musicians touring the EU, it depends on their host country’s rules and they may be required to get visas for each country they plan on visiting, as well as a carnet - a passport for professional equipment.
The government’s digital and culture minister recently rejected a parliamentary petition signed by over 280,00 people and an open letter signed by more than 100 artists, both of which called on the government to negotiate paperwork-free travel for British musicians touring in Europe.
5. The government must report on proposed divergence from EU standards regarding environmental protection and workers' rights - As part of the agreed Brexit trade deal, the UK and EU agreed a “rebalancing mechanism”, governed by an arbitration panel made up of one UK and one EU nominee and a jointly agreed chair. If it is felt by either partner that the other is undermining their country’s business by reducing regulations, they can impose retaliatory tariffs on them.
This amendment would not only require the government to report on any alteration to UK employment or environmental standards which may trigger this rebalancing mechanism, but also force them to hold a parliamentary debate and vote within seven days of the publication of the government’s report.
6. The government must seek participation in the EU’s student exchange programme - Erasmus is the EU’s student exchange programme which allows students to study at the best universities across Europe at no extra cost. Up till now, around 15,000 British students have taken part in it every year and roughly 30,000 EU students have come to the UK to study.
Universities UK International says our departure will cost the UK economy a net cost of £243m a year, after subtracting our membership costs. And the House of Lords “Brexit: the Erasmus and Horizon programmes” report said: “We were struck by the stark warning that mobility opportunities for people in vocational education and training would “stop in their tracks” without Erasmus funding, and we are particularly concerned that losing access to the programme would disproportionately affect people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with medical needs or disabilities.”
7. Devolved governments must be allowed to join Erasmus+ programme - This amendment was the same as the above but specifically regarding allowing the Welsh and Scottish governments and Northern Ireland Executive the right to join Erasmus.
8. Government must report within 1 month on planned support for business and jobs to help implementation of the Brexit deal - This amendment is self-explanatory.
9. Government must report on the activities of Partnership Council twice a year - The Partnership Council, which is responsible for the implementation of the recent Brexit trade deal, (not the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement) which the UK and EU agreed, is made up of representatives from the EU and the UK. This amendment would have required the government to hold a parliamentary debate and vote within seven days of the publication of the government’s report.
All the amendments in full publication can be found here.