Hello Members and Friends.
A warm welcome back to you all. I hope you had an amazing summer break and I sincerely hope it isn’t already a distant memory. If it feels that way, never fear: Christmas is just around the corner.
This month I have been tasked with our newsletter, and what a month it is. For those of you whom I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, I will quickly introduce myself before talking about the latest Brexit developments and what the Chamber will be doing in the next few weeks.
I’m originally from a small town called Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. It’s about 30 minutes from Cambridge but I have spent most of my adult life in Italy. I’m country manager for a multinational services provider. I studied languages (French and Italian) and taught English as a foreign language for many years in Sardinia. After nine years of teaching at the University of Cagliari I decided to return to the UK and study law. I lived in Bristol for three years where I worked for Jordans Trust Company which was acquired by my current employer. I’m a certified legal translator but avoid translating as I don’t really enjoy it. I was elected as a councillor for the BCCI the same day as Tom Noad in July 2016 and as vice president in June this year. Together with Avv Cristiano Cominotto, I co-chair the Tax & Legal chapter.
It’s difficult to know where to start, the past month has been so busy, so I’ll start with a touch of British sarcasm. I still have an English mobile phone number and frequently receive telephone calls asking me if I have been involved in an accident that wasn’t my fault; they’re cold calls from compensation companies hoping to find a new client. I received one of these calls last week and replied, “yes... Brexit”.
When I started to prepare this newsletter a week ago, it was looking more and more likely that we were indeed going to 'car crash' out of the EU on October 31st, Halloween – very fitting. Boris Johnson, whose full name incidentally is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, had asked the Monarch to prorogue Parliament from September 10th until October 14th, effectively leaving Parliament extremely little time to debate Brexit and, for those uncomfortable with the possibility of a no-deal exit, small hope of doing anything about it. Well, as former Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously said (and I doubt there are many times since 1965 when the oft-quoted phrase has been more appropriate): “A week is a long time in politics”.
Since Parliament returned from its summer recess last Tuesday, Johnson has faced a barrage of defeats in the House of Parliament. First, on Tuesday, a motion from Sir Oliver Letwin (a Conservative MP) was passed seizing control of the parliamentary agenda from the Government and handing it to MPs. Incidentally, the last time a prime minister lost his first Commons vote was William Pitt in the late 18th Century! Second, 21 Tory rebels who voted against the Government were expelled from the party and one other defected of his own will to the Liberal Democrats. The slim Conservative majority had been completely lost. Third, on Wednesday, a bill was presented by Labour which would prevent the PM from taking the UK out of the EU without a deal on October 31st. Johnson’s government lost that as well. The Bill, having also passed the House of Lords, should become law today. Fourth, Johnson’s reply was to try to force an election on October 15th. Again, he lost. Fifth, on Thursday, Johnson’s own brother resigned his cabinet role in protest. This was followed yesterday by cabinet minister Amber Rudd.
In the background, simultaneous legal challenges to Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament were heard in both the English court and the Scottish court. Johnson can take some comfort that the applicants' arguments were rejected in both forums. However, the UK Supreme Court will now have the final say on this fundamental constitutional question of parliamentary sovereignty versus executive power. That is, if the Court decides it even has the standing to interfere. The PM will continue to push for an election before October 31st, a move which is strongly resisted by other parties who want to ensure that the October 31st Brexit deadline is extended into next year before any election is called. In the meantime, Johnson has reaffirmed his commitment to leaving the EU on October 31st, preferring, in his words, “being dead in a ditch” to remaining thereafter.
What is the EU saying while all of this is going on? In short, nothing much, except to restate that the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with Teresa May almost a year ago is the only possible deal on the table. The ball remains in the UK’s court. Will it crash out on October 31st? Will there be a deal? Will there be an extension to Article 50? The only answer is, as another British prime minister, HH Asquith, was wont to say, "let us wait and see".
Detailed information on preparing for Brexit may be found on the pages of our umbrella organisation, the British Chambers of Commerce, here https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/brexit-hub as well as on the UK Government’s website https://www.gov.uk/brexit (predominantly from a UK perspective). For details on Italy’s preparations for a no deal, please see http://www.governo.it/sites/governo.it/files/BREXIT.pdf.
Avvocato Cristiano Cominotto and I will be focusing heavily on Brexit within the Tax & Legal chapter. On the topic of the Tax & Legal chapter, we recently sent out an email asking for your feedback on which subjects you were most interested in. Thank you for your replies. We have taken your suggestions on board and we will be presenting the 2020 programme on October 2nd at a networking aperitif which will be held at the Magna Pars Hotel near Porta Genova and hope to see as many of you there as possible.
Our welcome back aperitif will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, September 10th from 7pm to 9pm at the Sheraton Diana Majestic in collaboration with SDL. We look forward to seeing many of you there. We have an array of upcoming events this month from a Business Breakfast with Steve Wood, the Development Director of Westfield on September 19th to golf at the Menaggio Golf Club on September 27th.
The Chamber’s staff is certainly going to be very busy this month so I will sign off with a big thank you to them all and I hope to see you at our aperitivo tomorrow!
Vice President & Co-Chair Tax&Legal
9th September 2019
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