The Political Year Ahead

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The Sport and Recreation Alliance's Parliamentary and Policy Officer, Ryan McCullough looks ahead at what could be in store in Westminster for 2019.

The previous year in politics was nothing if not eventful. Brexit dominated the headlines for most of the year and predicting the next political twist and turn became impossible. Many people, including myself, tried and failed to guess what would happen next.

So, I thought I’d give it a go for 2019 because a week is a long time in politics, so why not try to predict the year!

It’s best to point out early that this year will be no less eventful than the last and while that may be the only prediction I get right, I will outline what could be in store and what this might mean for our sector.

Brexit

There is no respite from Brexit and it will dominate the first three months of the year up to 29 March - ‘Exit Day.’ However, it’s possible that Brexit will dominate beyond this date depending on what Parliament decides.

Having suspended the meaningful vote before Christmas, the Prime Minister will bring her deal on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal back for debate in Parliament this week, with the vote taking place on 15 January.

 This leaves several options still on the table based on whether Theresa May’s deal passes or fails.

  • It passes;

It is likely this will be the least tumultuous outcome although that isn’t guaranteed. It would create certainty and the transition period would allow our sector time to prepare for whatever new relationship is agreed with the EU.

This will be beneficial for issues such as seasonal workers, major sports events and the movement of people and sporting equipment.

Politically too, this is likely to be the most stable outcome. Dissenting Conservative backbenchers cannot call a vote of ‘No Confidence’ in Theresa May after losing the previous vote in December and winning the vote would strengthen her position.

Likewise, having won the vote on the deal, it would be unlikely that the Labour Party would call a ‘No Confidence’ motion in the government.

  • It doesn’t pass;

At present this is looking the most likely outcome as several MP’s have already indicated that they will not be voting for the deal.

In this situation uncertainty will remain and several possible scenarios could happen in the event of the deal not getting through parliament.

They include;

  • No deal’- With time running out on the Article 50 clock for an agreement to be reached, it’s possible that the UK could leave the European Union without a deal. For more information on what this could mean, see our Brexit ‘No Deal Technical Notices’
  • General Election- A fresh election could happen, for example, if the government failed a vote of ‘no confidence’ but this would likely require an extension of Article 50 (see below).
  • Second referendum- This is a real possibility and has growing support in Parliament and with the public, although, again, it may require an extension of Article 50 (see below). The government has currently ruled this out.
  • Extension of Article 50- The Prime Minister could seek to extend Article 50 and move the Brexit date beyond 29 March to allow for more time. This option is not favoured in Europe and would need the agreement of EU Member States.

The early part of the year will therefore be dominated by Brexit, but the key theme is uncertainty and it may extend throughout the year.

Spending Review

Another important event in the political calendar is the government’s Spending Review.

The Review is designed to give a plan for how the government will allocate an approx. £4 trillion among 25 government departments.

The previous Spending Review took place in 2015 and the government has announced that another will take place this year.

According to the Institute for Government, the 2019 Spending Review will have to cover the period until 2020/21 but should also cover the following two years.

At present, the date of the Spending Review is not clear, but I expect it to likely be in the Autumn.

As with previous Spending Reviews, it is important for the sector to make the case for the benefits of sport. Outcomes that could benefit the sector include:

  • Extra or protected funding for DCMS and by extension arms-length bodies with responsibility for sport;
  • Recognition of the wider societal benefits of sport, physical activity and recreation reflected in cross-government buy-in and funding for sport and recreation, for example, from health/education budgets.

What Else to Look Out For?

Other political dates for your diary include:

15 January- Parliamentary vote on Withdrawal Agreement

Spring (Date TBC)- Spring Statement

2 May- Local elections in 262 Local Authorities and all Local Authorities in Northern Ireland

May/June (Date TBC)- State Opening of Parliament

Autumn (Date TBC)- The Budget

22-25 September- Labour Party Conference

29 Sept – 2 Oct- Conservative Party Conference

Keep an eye out on our social media channels for APPG for Sport events too. They provide lively debate on topical policy issues and there will be several taking place in Parliament throughout the year.

While I have no doubt that this year is going to be eventful, the exact path of events is completely uncertain. Watch this space for updates.

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