It is like Aunt Julia & the Scriptwriter! Although I may be prepared to accept that Mario Vargas Llosa references are a new level of obscurity even for these missives.  But welcome to a new one stop Brexit/Covid-19 shop.  And, unusually for our times, it is a shop in which not all the shelves re bare.


The coming together


We can start nowhere else than the story that has united the two main topics of our world.  I refer to the fact that Michel Barnier has tested positive for coronavirus.  This was reported surprisingly sympathetically even in the Daily Mail.  But I suppose if even Nigel Farage can act halfway decently there was little choice for them.


Now, clearly, our best wishes are with Micky B and the wider Barnier Bunch for a speedy recovery.  But one thing does puzzle me.  This is a man who very staunchly – and to the large part admirably – does not do anything until he has a formal mandate from European Commission that has been ratified by European Parliament.  So who sponsored the legislation that commanded Michel to get sick?  Seems a tad harsh.


As a result of the announcement his entire team are having to self-isolate and get tested.  This may reveal that European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen may need to rename herself Ursula Von Der Derweather.


Need for surgery?


Those nice people at Morgan Lewis (founders Wes Morgan and Lennox Lewis) have asked whether members would be interested in them running a free one hour HR/employment law surgery each week where you could attend remotely and raise any HR questions/concerns you might have regarding coronavirus arrangements .  If this would be useful, can you let know and we will organise.


But it’s just a rock with monkeys on it…?


The government is very conscious that the anxiety caused by Covid-19 may mean many of you are struggling to get enough sleep.  And that tired bodies are less resistant to infection and thus addressing this issue is a vital part of the war on the virus.  So, ingeniously, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (henceforth, due to current postponements, to be known as the Department for Digital, Culture and Media – but that still begs the question “digital what?”) has produced 18 separate documents on “Explanatory framework for GDPR adequacy discussions”.  I mean, lordy, three of them appear to be dedicated to dealing with Gibraltar alone.


Now I appreciate that a key service that your trade association offers you is to examine detail and provide you with a concise summary of the things you need to know.  But there are limits and this is it.  Although I have a sneaking suspicion Isabelle BIPAR has read them and so will seek to copy anything she has produced and pass it off as my own work.


And if GDPR grief leaves you still unable to nod off, try this House of Commons Library Briefing Paper on Level Playing Fields.


Extending the unextendable


As Parliament is still allowed to engage in non-essential social contact, Future Relationship with the European Union Committee sat to consider the progress of the negotiations on the UK’s Future Relationship with the EU.  It was joined by the very learned Stephen Booth, Head of the Britain in the World Project, Policy Exchange and Professor Anand Menon, Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs, Kings College London.  The following is a brief summary of part of the discussion.

COVID-19 impact on the negotiations: Hilary Benn (Chair, Lab) said that across the UK and EU, economies and societies are going into lockdown, which may continue for several months. If economies are facing real difficulties and heading towards a global recession, where might that leave negotiations like these? Anand Menon (Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs, Kings College London) said that makes it harder to get things agreed, logistically and by making an already compressed timetable even more compressed. More importantly, it makes the already difficult task of business adaptation to a whole new relationship with the biggest and closest trading partner even more difficult. The economic argument used for Brexit is the UK can adapt its economy to make it more efficient to work better. Adding that sort of adaptation to the sort of forced adaptation caused by COVID-19 will be massively disruptive. The addition of this pandemic means the case for an extension to the transition becomes much stronger. Stephen Booth (Head of the Britain in the World Project, Policy Exchange) agreed that it creates bandwidth issues for the Government and business. Set against that, politically this may also focus minds on both sides of the Channel to try to find a way through the negotiations and underline the importance of reaching a deal.


Given the thrust of this advice it is not surprising that the question of extending the transition period beyond the end of the year was put to the Prime Minister yesterday.  And the government, now so wedded to the principle of “being guided by the science” said “no”.


The Dombrov-kiss off


Executive Vice President of European Commission Valdis Dombrovkis has replied to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s letter about financial services equivalence.  Previously on Equivalence Rish had written Vald and said “Hey Vald, we kind of like have the same rules as you now, so we must be equivalent, yeah? So we should be able to go four to the floor on a decision by Junio, right my man?”  Vald has responded and basically told him to shove it.  Assessments by end June, decisions whenever EU feels like it.  And what about those cod over there…


I have no reason to suggest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer adopts some form of sub Charles Manson sixties hippy slang.  But I kind of wish he does.  It always reminds me of a conversation a very naïve version of me had with an ageing American hippy in Guatemala many years ago.  My dude (as I now realise I ought to have called him) was surprised at my significantly disproportionate sense of wonderment at the story he was telling about a bar where there “was, like, this cool cat in the corner playing piano”.  And I am, like, “what? With its paws?”


EC come, EC go


European Commission has published its Draft text of the Agreement on the New Partnership with the United Kingdom.  Good news is it includes a section on services and specifically financial services. UK is expected to publish its response on some areas next week.  Highlight of the EC document is Part III Chapter 6: “Surrender”.  Drafted by the French as experts in the field.


And that should distract Isabelle for long enough for me to steal her notes on GDPR adequacy…



I am not off anywhere in this era of social distancing.  It’s fantastic.