Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st January 2020

The updated Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) is now published – here.

The Explanatory Notes for the updated WAB are here.

Two clauses giving a role for Parliament, including relating to negotiating objectives for the next phase, are removed, these were Clauses 30 and 31.

Clause 34 and Schedule 4 on workers’ rights are also gone. Explanatory notes to the Queen’s Speech identify the government will bring forward an Employment Bill in this legislative period 2019-2020 (this Blog does not focus on employment law, save for health and safety aspects).

Among the 5 new clauses:

Clause 30 on Withdrawal Treaty Joint Committee dispute resolution reporting

Clause 33 banning Ministers from agreeing to an extension to the transition period (termed implementation period in the bill)

Clause 35 banning the use of written procedure in the Withdrawal Treaty Joint Committee

Clause 36 repealing spent enactments

Re: the briefed stories about letting lower courts depart from CJEU judgments, rather than just the Supreme Court and High Court of Justiciary – this seems to be catered for by a new subsection in clause 26(1) that gives Ministers a power to decide when lower courts can do this.

Another change is in clause 20. In October the WAB had what’s called a standing service provision, which authorises expenditure to the EU for sums owed under the WA treaty. It was time limited last time (to March 2021) but a Minister could extend it. No more can it be extended.

Last time the Bill only had provisions about House of Commons scrutiny of developments in EU law during the transition period (the European Scrutiny Committee could force debates in the Commons). It seems there is now the same role in the Lords for its EU Committee in clause 29. During the transition period, the Bill incorporates developments in EU law into UK Law and stays (delays) the effect of Brexit Law changing the UK statute base so it can stand alone.

It also seems like Schedule 2 has been amended a bit. It now looks like the Independent Monitoring Authority can delegate decisions about starting inquiries and legal proceedings (where it couldn’t before) and that its functions can be transferred more easily than before.

There may be other changes that are identified or that are accepted as the Bill is scrutinised.

The Second Reading is scheduled for tomorrow, which will be easily carried. The Bill will then go forward for scrutiny in the usual fashion once Parliament returns from its holidays.

Parliament will take its Christmas holidays at the end of tomorrow, to return again on 6th January.

The WAB will amend the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. In addition to bringing in the transition period to 31st December 2020 (known as the Implementation Period completion day) the fact of enactment of the WAB, will delay the deadline for application to the EU Settled Status Scheme to June 2021.

If there are further substantive changes to the WAB, I will post again, otherwise not.

Queens Speech (UK)

Exit day is 31st January 2020 – DExEU government department will close on that day

Of relevance (for this Blog) in the Queen’s Speech today are :

(1) the Environment Bill – this will be brought back with alterations

(2) a new Fire safety and Building safety bill or bills

(3) the withdrawal agreement bill and associated Brexit bills

Please look out for further Blog posts when the bill text is published.

Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st January 2020.

Implementation Period (IP) completion day is 31st December 2020 (this is the date of the end of the Withdrawal Treaty Transition Period).

The Queen’s Speech is tomorrow (Thursday), and I will post specifically on that, once the bills for the new legislative period are identified. Some bills will be of relevance, not least the Environment Bill.

The UK government has signalled it will bring back the WAB in an updated form on Friday, so that it can be enacted by the Exit day.

The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – the WAB – amends the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to give effect to the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty (Oct 2019 revision). It sets out provisions for an orderly exit, and includes a Transition Period – identified as an Implementation Period (IP) in UK Legislation.

The updated text is not yet published. I will post again on the WAB when the updated text is available.

The UK government has signalled it will insert provision for the Lower Courts to overturn decisions of the European Courts. This will affect the definition of waste, among other matters.

There may be other WAB updates of relevance also. Once I see the updated WAB text, I will include a list of the relevant changes in the Blog post.

Please look out for further Blog posts on the WAB.

New Ireland/Northern Ireland Trade Arrangements (UK Brexit)

* Exit day is 31st January 2020

* Withdrawal Treaty transition period end is 31st December 2020

The revised UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty is expected to be ratified shortly by the UK enacting the UK’s EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (currently in draft, known as the WAB). This will bring into force both the Exit day and the transition period.

The Withdrawal Treaty includes an Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol of new trade arrangements that will apply to trade between the UK and the EU via the island of Ireland after the transition period.

* Ireland is an EU member state.

* Northern Ireland (NI) is part of the UK.

* The UK will be a third country vis a vis the EU after Exit day.

* The transition period stays (delays) the effect of Exit to give time for a trade deal to be put in place between the UK and the EU.

The Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol makes a number of arrangements applicable to trade – that will apply after the transition period –

(1) Northern Ireland (NI) will operate inside the EU’s single market for industrial goods and agrifood, and comply with the EU’s Union Customs Code (whilst at the same time Norther Ireland will remain a legal part of the UK’s customs territory – the Protocol does not affect the UK customs territory).

(2) Goods entering NI from GB will be coming from a third country (the UK). Because those goods will be able to cross the land border into the EU’s single market, then customs procedures, tariffs, regulatory and agrifood checks will be required at the NI points of entry from GB: Warrenpoint, Belfast and Larne ports, and at airports – or more likely due to lack of infrastructure – at the GB ports of exit: Liverpool, etc, acting for the EU.

(3) Goods going in the opposite direction, Northern Ireland to GB, will require summary exit declarations under the EU’s Union Customs Code. The detail of this is not yet published.

(4) Beyond that, checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to GB will be up to the UK. It will have obligations under the WTO and may want to “protect” its own internal market from Irish-origin and therefore EU goods. In addition, new trade deals the UK agrees outside of the EU sphere may stipulate or necessitate the checking of some goods.

(5) Much depends on the detail of the new set-up –

Under the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty , a specialised sub-committee, which forms part of the overall UK-EU Joint Committee to be created under the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty to manage the new relationship between Britain and Europe, will agree certain aspects.

Note : the EU has acknowledged that Ireland will need to have a reserved seat – along with Spain and Cyprus, who have Protocols of their own on Gibraltar and the issue of the British military base on Cyprus in the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty – at the Joint Committee table.

The sub-committee will agree a list of goods and categories of goods which are only destined for, or will be consumed in, Northern Ireland – in other words, where there is no obvious risk they will cross the border and enter the single market.

(6) Goods from GB to NI (dealt with by this sub-committee) may be exempted from tariffs altogether, or where tariffs are paid and where the EU tariff is higher than the UK one, importers will be able to apply for a rebate.

(7) Live animals will be checked coming in to NI from GB (as they are now), and agrifood products GB to NI will also need to comply with EU food safety requirements.

(8) The new UK-EU trade deal itself will also affect the work of the Joint Committee specialised sub-committee – if the UK-EU trade deal results in zero tariffs and quotas, then that will largely remove the need for tariff exemptions and rebates on goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland (traders would still have to do the paperwork to show that the consignments they are moving are actually tariff-free).

I will post further on this matter, when more information is available.

New Plant Health Rules (EU)

In October 2016, the EU adopted Regulation (EU) 2016/2031 on protective measures against plant pests (“Plant Health Law”).

On 13 December 2016, the Regulation entered into force and is applicable from today 14 December 2019.

These rules constitute the EU Plant Health Regime, which has been in place since 1977 and was fully reviewed by the European Commission in May 2013.

The new rules aim to modernise the plant health regime, enhancing more effective measures for the protection of the Union’s territory and its plants. They also aim to ensure safe trade, as well as to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the health of our crops and forests.

From 14 December 2019, the current Annexes of Directive 2000/29/EC, whereby the regulated pests, the regulated plants, plant products and other objects and the plant health import, as well as internal movement, requirements are listed, are replaced with a new Implementing Act 2019/2072 and its Annexes.

This Implementing Act is here.

From 14 December 2019, all plants (including living parts of plants) will need to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate to enter into the EU, unless they are listed in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/2019 as exempted from this general requirement (not requiring to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate). Currently, the list of plants exempted from the obligation to carry a phytosanitary certificate from 14 December 2019 are the following fruits: pineapples, coconuts, durians, bananas and dates.

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/2019 is updated by 2019/2072.

EU plant health rules also cover the movement and trade within the EU of certain plants, plant products and other objects which are potential carriers of quarantine pests. These plants, plant products and other objects are listed in Annex VIII and IX of the above Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/2072.

Within the EU, these rules include:

• Requirements for internal movements – Regulation (EU) 2019/2072 – Annex VIII, IX and X

• Production controls and inspections at the place of production during the growing season and immediately after harvest;

• Official producer registration;

• Plant passports, issued to accompany the plants, products and other objects once they have passed all the EU checks.

Registration of EU producers

• Directives 92/90 EEC and 93/50 EC

• Regulation (EU) 2016/2031, Articles 65-70

Rules for issuing plant passports

• Directive 92/105/EEC as amended by Directive 2005/17 /EC

• Criteria for authorization Regulation (EU) 2019/827

• Format of plant passports Regulation (EU) 2017/2313

• Regulation (EU) 2016/2031, Articles 78-95

Brexit – the UK Government has issued instructions, these new EU Plant Health Rules apply today to movements within the UK and movements to the EU.

The UK instructions are here.

Energy Taxes (EU)

On the 5th December, the relevant Council of the EU (government ministers of the EU) adopted conclusions of the European Commission on the EU energy taxation framework. The Council Conclusions on energy taxation are here.

The Conclusions are a response to the European Council’s call to advance work on the conditions, incentives and enabling framework to ensure a transition to a climate-neutral EU, in line with the Paris Agreement. The aim is to contribute to the policy objectives and measures to achieve the environmental, energy and climate targets for 2030, while preserving European competitiveness, and respecting member states’ rights to decide on their own energy mix.  

The energy taxation directive adopted in 2003 identifies energy products subject to harmonised rules for excise duties, sets minimum levels of taxation and lays down conditions for applying tax exemptions and reductions, ensuring the proper functioning of the internal market.

The EU now has a new regulatory framework and policy objectives in the area of climate and energy.

The Council Conclusions call on the Commission to analyse and evaluate possible options for a possible revision of the energy taxation directive. The Commission is invited to give particular consideration to the scope of the directive, minimum rates and specific tax reductions and exemptions.

In addition the Conclusions call on the Commission to update provisions, as appropriate, in order to ensure that they are practicable and provide greater certainty and clarity in its implementation, taking notably into consideration:

• the treatment of biofuels and other alternative fuels,

• the applicability of control and movement provisions to certain products, such as treatment of lubricants and designer fuels,

• new energy products and technologies,

• relevant sectors, such as aviation, taking into account their specificities and existing exemptions and international dimension,

• impacts on government revenues,

• state aid processes and rules.

The Council highlights the importance of fully assessing its proposals in terms of their economic, social and environmental costs and benefits and their implications for competitiveness, connectivity, employment and sustainable economic growth, particularly for sectors most exposed to international competition.

Pesticides (EU)

Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 is the governing EU Law on the placing of plant protection products (pesticides and herbicides) on the European market – the PPP Regulation.

This is a useful Q&A document (2015) about the PPP Regulation – here.

A zonal system of authorisation operates in the EU to enable a harmonised and efficient system to operate.

The EU is divided into 3 zones; North, Central and South. EU countries assess applications on behalf of other countries in their zone and sometimes on behalf of all zones.

The PPP Regulation sets out the requirements, procedure and timeframes for authorisation of Plant Protection Products (PPPs).

Applicants, EU countries, the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) can be involved in the process of authorisation.

There are different types of application that can be submitted depending on the intended use of the PPP, the Member State(s) for which the PPP is required and the regulatory status of any existing authorisations.

Authorisations usually are time-limited and therefore come up again for review. The relevant EU body for the whole EU is the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF).

In March 2019, the non-renewal of the fungicide active substance chlorothalonil came up for review at SCoPAFF, and the decision was not to renew.

In December 2019, the non-renewal of two organophosphate active substances chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl came up for review at SCoPAFF, and the decision is not to renew (this decision is not yet published).

This means products containing the above active substances may not circulate in the European market, stocks may be used up for a short time, determined by the EU authorisation document that is issued for the active substance.

Brexit : as an EU Regulation, the PPP Regulation is adopted in the UK as Retained EU Law. Enacted Brexit Law (in force from Exit day) makes changes to the PPP Regulation to enable it to stand alone within the UK statute base.

DEFRA has made no announcements re reversing EU bans.