Key Events This Week:
Parliament fails to truly take back control
This week the House of Commons voted to endorse an amendment by senior Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin which resulted in parliament taking control of the order paper. With the Government effectively losing control over its ability to set its own business, MPs moved on Wednesday to vote on a range of proposals aimed at breaking the impasse in the Brexit process. However, all 8 indicative votes including a proposal put forward by Conservative veteran Ken Clarke for the UK to stay in a permanent customs union, failed to achieve a majority. One proposal to support a Withdrawal Agreement on the condition it was put to a confirmatory public vote, received more support than the Prime Minister did in her attempts to get her deal through. As things currently stand MPs will now move to interpret the highest awarded votes for further debate on Monday which could see parliament voting again on a smaller range of options.
Meanwhile, in a dramatic move the Prime Minister offered to fall on her own sword as the ultimate price for securing the passing of the Withdrawal Agreement. The announcement by the PM on Wednesday was followed by a wave of support from members of the hard line European Research Group (ERG) who had previously opposed her deal. However, within hours of her speech to the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, the DUP, on whom the Government relies for its slim working majority, confirmed they would once again vote against the Prime Minister’s deal should it return to the Commons. With the DUP wedded to their view that the Withdrawal Agreement threatens the integrity of the Union, it appears only legally binding changes from the EU would see their position change. However, there is no appetite in the EU to offer any such concessions amid growing frustration in Brussels and across EU capitals.
On Thursday Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom announced that parliament would sit today, Friday, to hold a non-meaningful vote on the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement only. The vote seeks to give MPs a final opportunity to seek an extension to May 22nd under the terms agreed with the EU. In a week where parliament took historical control of the Commons, we’re no closer to knowing what it is that the UK wants.
EU Commission publishes recommendation on 5G security risk
Following the EU Parliament’s resolution calling for action regarding potential cyber security threats from China, the EU Commission this week has published its recommendations for the use of 5G networks. Rather than calling for a ban on Huawei or other Chinese suppliers that pose potential risks, the EU Commission urged member states to conduct national risk assessments by June and will conduct its own by October of this year. A group of key cyber-security experts will then work to agree on EU wide measures by the end of the year. Additionally, countries were encouraged to share the data of their assessments with each other to develop a “toolbox of mitigating measures.”
The move by the EU defies the United States’ call to ban Chinese vendors outright. Over the last couple of months the administration in Washington had increasingly lobbied at national and EU level for an outright ban of the technology citing severe cyber security risks.
Rather, the EU Commission’s guidance calls for equipment to be purchased from trusted suppliers, which echoes a draft from the German government that will be finalised later this year. Germany is among several European countries which are set to auction off 5G licenses later this year, which adds to the pressure to act swiftly.
Since the Commission’s recommendation is non-binding, member states can individually choose to ban specific suppliers until more formal guidelines have been established.
Controversial Copyright Law gets passed
On Tuesday the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market was passed in the EU Parliament by a margin of 348 to 274 votes. This came after heavy campaigning by online platforms and citizens across Europe against the proposed legislation.
The two most debated articles included Article 11 which requires online platforms to pay licensing fees to content creators to be able to display their content online.
Article 13, which also proved contentious, requires tech giants such as YouTube and Google to ensure that the content uploaded on their platforms has the necessary copyright permission. Content without such consent will not be allowed online under the new Directive. Exempt from this will be material uploaded for the “purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche “ such as GIFs and memes. Upload filters, which some tech firms use to combat the problem, will now be made mandatory for all platforms. Critics claim that these filters are faulty, potentially blocking content that is allowed online which could prevent artists and content creators being able to share their work.
Smaller platforms could be at a disadvantage due to their lack of power to negotiate feasible licensing deals as well as not having sufficient funds to use upload filters.
Member states now have two years to interpret and implement the legislation.
Compliments of Vulcan Consulting, a member of the EACCNY