Brexit: What's happening this week?

Image copyright
Getty Images

The UK is due to leave the EU at the end of this month – but before then the legislation required must be approved by Parliament.

Here are the key things you need to know about Brexit this week.

What is the latest on Brexit?

The UK is due to leave the EU at 23:00 GMT on Friday, 31 January.

But before this date, the UK Parliament has to approve the necessary legislation – the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, or Brexit bill as it’s more commonly known.

The European Parliament also has to give the green light in order for the UK to leave on the terms of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deal.

However, this would only mark the next step in the Brexit process. Following its departure, the UK will enter a transition period until 31 December 2020.

During this period the UK will effectively remain in the EU’s customs union and single market – but will be outside the political institutions and there will be no British members of the European Parliament.

Mr Johnson has already ruled out any extension to this period.

What is happening with the Brexit bill this week?

MPs returned from their Christmas break on Tuesday and will conduct detailed scrutiny of the Brexit bill, which passed its first hurdle in Parliament in the Commons in December shortly after the Conservatives’ election victory.

The government wants to get the bill through its remaining Commons stages by the end of Thursday, which should be eminently doable with its freshly-won majority.

That will include discussions on citizens’ rights after Brexit and Northern Ireland, to name just two of many areas.

There are also amendments – proposed changes to the bill – the Commons will have to consider during this process, although those without government backing have little hope of succeeding.

Labour has proposed an amendment to ensure consultation of Parliament and the devolved assemblies during the negotiations.

The party also wants to give MPs a say on whether the post-Brexit transition period should be extended beyond the end of the year, if the government has failed to negotiate a trade deal with the EU by the middle of June.

A previous version of the bill gave a role to MPs on this question, but was removed by ministers after the election and replaced with a new clause ruling out any extension of the 11-month period.

The SNP is also laying down markers, including an amendment which proposes to dis-apply the whole bill to Scotland.

Image copyright

Image caption

Mark Francois wants Big Ben to chime on 23:00 GMT on 31 January to mark Brexit

However an amendment from Brexiteer MPs Mark Francois and Nigel Evans, requiring Big Ben to chime at the moment the UK officially leaves the EU, was not selected for debate.

The bill is expected to clear the Commons on Thursday, before heading to the House of Lords for consideration the following week.

Theresa May suffered a string of defeats at the hands of the Lords over Brexit, but even if peers decide to amend the bill and it has to come back to the Commons, Mr Johnson should be able to reverse any of the changes they make.

Read more from the BBC’s Mark d’Arcy here on what’s happening this week.

Is anything else going on in the world of Brexit?

Image copyright

Image caption

Boris Johnson is due to meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in London on Wednesday.

Mrs von der Leyen has previously warned that forthcoming Brexit negotiations face another “cliff-edge situation” given Mr Johnson’s insistence that the transition period must not be extended.

She has said the timetable for trade talks is therefore “extremely challenging”.

Elsewhere this week, MPs will be able to question Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay in the Commons on Thursday – the final time Exiting the European Union questions will be held as the the department is due to be closed down on 31 January.