The year so far has seen the Brexit talks continue to shape the political weather, whilst they have progressed broadly in line with expectations. As planned in December, the two sides were able to agree this month on transition terms for the period after the UK leaves in March 2019 and before the future relationship agreement enters into force in 2021. Big issues remain on the table for the coming months, notably Ireland, where there is a push for agreement by the summer, and the exact nature of the services element of the future trade relationship.
The European legislative train continues to rumble on, almost oblivious to Brexit and I am currently working on two pieces of legislation which will have a significant impact on the UK post-Brexit. Firstly I was appointed draftsman to revise new rules on the import of antiquities and art into the EU. The UK has the largest art market in Europe by far, and will be disproportionately impacted by proposed new licensing requirements, whether we retain the provisions in our domestic law post-2020 or need to comply to import items into the EU, so I am working to target the Regulation on high risk items, rather than general antiques. Another area the UK has a big interest in is data flows, a data agreement will be a key part of the future relationship, and I am representing our political group on a new proposal to create a more competitive data processing market in Europe.
Finally I know all colleagues are already in the depths of the campaign for this May's local elections, we have a raft of important metropolitan and borough council elections, and by-elections this year indicate the party is in a good place to be competitive in the West Midlands, spearheaded by Andy Street's great success in his first year as Mayor. I hope to see many of you on the doorsteps in the next few weeks as spring finally begins in time for the final push.