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Predictions for the year ahead

Will May trigger Article 50 in time? What impact will the supreme court hearing have? How will we negotiate with Brussels, and will there be a transitional agreement? Here we round up predictions for the year ahead.

Damon Poole, head of research at Change Britain and formerly a consultant on the Vote Leave campaign

‘People will increasingly view leaving the EU and the single market as an opportunity to build a fair but controlled immigration system; a system that stops discriminating against non-EU citizens and makes it easier for British business to hire the best talent from around the world, not just the EU.’

Amy Richards, associate director at Portland and previously national press office manager for Britain Stronger In

‘This year we can expect Labour’s woes to continue. With no clear narrative on Brexit from the leadership, nor any substantive alternative from the increasingly disparate groups of ‘moderate Labour MPs’, the Party will struggle to be heard amidst ongoing discussion and speculation on the Government’s negotiating position and the anti-Brexit positioning of the Lib Dems. We will, however, start to see more coherent opposition from those Labour figures in key Parliamentary roles, namely Hilary Benn, Chair of the Brexit Select Committee, and Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, both of whom are consulting widely on the detail of what could constitute a ‘progressive Brexit deal’, including reaching ‘a new deal’ with the public on immigration.’

George Pascoe-Watson, senior partner at Portland and former political editor at The Sun

‘Britain will head towards a hard Brexit which will please Leave campaigners and horrify Remainers in equal measure. European leaders will give very little to Theresa May and David Davis as they fight for a smooth transition for the UK economy. Relations are at rock bottom and all sides are digging in. The prospects of a settlement in Britain’s favour are not good. Don’t rule out a snap General Election, either. I think it’s unlikely but the conditions could hardly be better for Mrs May to put Labour to the sword.’

Jonathan Isaby, editor of Brexit Central

‘I predict that as the Government invokes Article 50 and gets on with the Brexit negotiations, the nay-saying doom-mongers behind Project Fear will continue to be proven wrong with the UK flourishing and most of the country relishing the opportunities ahead.’

Maria Caulfield MP

‘In 2017 I predict that, after the Supreme Court rules that Parliament must decide on triggering article 50, that article 50 will be triggered in the early spring by a majority vote in Parliament.’

Sir Stephen Wall, former UK ambassador to the EU and former head of the FCO’s European department

‘This will be the year of the knowable unknown: Trump will be President but more untried and erratic than any modern predecessor; the EU’s stability will be tested through elections in Netherlands, France and Germany, on whose outcome the survival of the EU may depend; the UK Government will no longer be able to conceal that leaving the EU will be, politically and economically, the most costly mistake made by any British Government since WWII.’

Victoria Dean, head of Portland’s Brexit Unit

‘After a lull in any real action since the referendum, I expect the timetable to accelerate rapidly this year, political oxygen across Europe to be used up on issues other than just Brexit (elections, rising populism, migration, banking) and for the negotiating atmosphere to harden significantly, whilst politics back here in the U.K. continues to swirl around the Brexit agenda.’

Jessica Fuhl, former head of digital at the Treasury

‘I predict that the Supreme Court will rule in favour of a vote in Parliament – which will pass in the Commons, and be voted down in the Lords. This will lead to plans to reform the Lords later this Parliament which will be announced in the Queen’s speech. It will, as a consequence, throw plans for triggering Article 50 in time into disarray, so Hammond will announce a new timeline at Budget. The government will then also set out a high-level plan for Brexit which will placate the Lords, leading to a vote passing in the upper chamber, and Article 50 being triggered in the summer, and a transitional agreement replicating business as usual put in place for two years, minimum, from that point.’

Scott Nolan-Smith, associate director in Portland’s US office

‘A change in the winds between the US and Russia. This year could see a swing in US-Russia relations – Trump has held to his belief Russia was not behind recent US election hacks, and praised the Russian leader’s response to recent sanctions imposed by the Obama administrations. Both Putin and Trump seem poised to re-engage once the president-elect is sworn in later this month. It remains unclear how this will play for Republican members of Congress often hawkish on Russia – including Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio – and how they might respond. As Trump ‘plays nice’ with Putin, we could see the EU strengthen its collective defense and further progress towards increased military and security coordination and interoperability within the EU, independent of NATO.’

Nick de Bois, chairman of the UK Events Industry Board, and former MP for Enfield North

‘In 2017 I predict that the Brexit negotiations will proceed more swiftly than anticipated as the EU becomes more and more focussed on the outcome of German and Dutch national elections, resulting in more certainty at the end of the year for British business as opposed to the initial huge uncertainty when Article 50 is triggered in the Spring, meaning businesses will have to hold their nerve – which as we have seen is something they are very good at to date.’

Heather Iqbal, a member of Portland’s Brexit Unit, and formerly head of digital for the Scottish Labour party

‘As Brexit unfolds, the SNP’s response to UK negotiations will become more and more complex. The balance between using Brexit as a political tool in the fight for Scottish independence, or actually delivering a sound negotiating or trade deal for Scotland within Europe, will become harder and harder to strike – regardless of the composure the Scottish Government will showcase. The possibility of an intra-UK trade deal could also create additional complexities to already difficult negotiations.’

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