Environment Bill (the OEP) (England & UK part)

The Environment Bill creates a new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), in England (with extension to Northern Ireland), I identified this in an earlier post.

This is necessary because Exiting the EU will leave a gap in governance.

The Bill –

– creates a statutory obligation on the Secretary of State, in exercising functions relating to the OEP, for example when making ministerial appointments to the OEP, to have regard to the independence of the OEP

[a Ministerial Statement will confirm the OEP will be given five year ring fenced indicative budget]

– covers climate change – the earlier exclusion of climate legislation is removed

– could consider in scope the spending of other departments on matters that related to environmental law (this is not however, the same, as the EU’s explicit incorporation of the environment in the policy making of all departments)

– envisages and facilitates (via information sharing) cooperation and mandates consultation (on transboundary areas) with any equivalent ‘devolved environmental body’ that is set up in Scotland and Wales

– extends to Northern Ireland (a Schedule in the Bill covers this) if so mandated by a restored Stormont – the Schedule provides for the Chair of such a NI extension to be selected by the Secretary of State for NI and DAERA (the environment department in NI)

– includes ‘environmental review’ enforcement powers in the Upper Tribunal

The OEP will launch to coincide with the IP (Implementation Period) completion day – 31st Dec 2020.

Scotland and Wales have made no announcements re their own bodies.

Withdrawal Agreement Bill (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October – Thursday week (this date is in a Statutory Instrument)

Yesterday the government published the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – here.

There are additional documents also published, including Explanatory Notes – here.

The Bill (known as the WAB) is 115 pages, with 40 clauses and 6 schedules. It’s purpose is to give effect in domestic law to the Withdrawal Agreement that was agreed between the EU and the UK on 17th October, and to ratify that Withdrawal Agreement.

– The Bill amends the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (a core existing Brexit Law) to ensure it reflects the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. Re Brexit Law, the Bill saves the Brexit Law for the end of the transition period (in the Bill this is the IP (Implementation Period) completion day).

– The Bill creates powers to make secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments), where appropriate, to enable the Withdrawal Agreement to be implemented domestically.

– The Bill includes amendments to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 in relation to rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity protections contained in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement 1998.

– The Bill includes provision relating to facilitating access for Northern Ireland goods to the market in Great Britain, as well as further provision to ensure no alteration to the arrangements for North South cooperation can occur as a result of this Bill.

The Withdrawal Agreement sets out the exit terms, covering the transition period, the monies to be paid to the EU, citizen rights, the Ireland-Northern Ireland specific arrangements, and other matters.

The Bill gives effect to these exit terms.

The timetabling of UK Parliament debate on this Bill will be voted on this morning.

The government has already signaled that all of this week will be taken up with this Bill, leaving the further debate on the Queen’s Speech and the Environment Bill Second Reading for later dates (unspecified).

Please look out for further Blog posts on this matter.

What’s happening re Brexit (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October (this date is set out in a Statutory Instrument)

EU-UK Agreement is reached on the Johnson Exit terms (the Withdrawal Agreement agreed last week), but this Agreement must be ratified by both the UK and the EU Parliaments (if you remember ratification of the earlier agreed May Exit terms failed at the UK Parliament step, and the Exit day was extended).

Yesterday, the UK Parliament voted to require completion of the full legislative elements of ratification (passage of an unpublished Withdrawal Agreement Bill) first. Plus (in fulfilment of the EU (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 – the Benn Act), the UK applied for the Exit day to be moved to 31st January 2020.

Tomorrow, it may be the Johnson Exit terms will return for UK Parliament vote, but it’s more likely ratification will move straight to the legislative element – the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

We don’t know exactly what will be in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), because it is not published, but many, possibly hundreds, of amendments are likely, at least for debate.

If the WAB is enacted by 31st October, the UK exits with the Johnson Exit terms (see the posts of last week on the (Johnson) revised Ireland-Northern Ireland Protocol, and the (Johnson) revised Political Declaration).

If the WAB is not enacted by 31st October, the Exit day is moved to the 31st January 2020 (if the EU has granted the application), or a different date (if the EU sets a different date and the UK Parliament agrees it).

The UK government has also triggered its Operation Yellowhammer no deal contingency plan.

Please look out for further Blog posts on the matter.

[next week also has the votes scheduled on the Queen’s Speech, and the Environment Bill Second Reading]

EU-UK FTA Political Declaration (revised) (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October (this day is set out in a Statutory Instrument)

The Political Declaration accompanies the Withdrawal Agreement, it is revised – here.

This document sets out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom as agreed at negotiators’ level on 17 October 2019, replacing the one published in OJ C 66I of 19.2.2019.

It is 27 pages, and signals – (some of the elements – please read the entire document)

– the EU and the United Kingdom will work together to safeguard the rules- based international order, the rule of law and promotion of democracy, and high standards of free and fair trade and workers’ rights, consumer and environmental protection, and cooperation against internal and external threats to their values and interests.

– the Parties agree to develop an ambitious, wide-ranging and balanced economic partnership. This partnership will be comprehensive, encompassing a Free Trade Agreement, as well as wider sectoral cooperation where it is in the mutual interest of both Parties. It will be underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition, as set out in Section XIV of this Part. It should facilitate trade and investment between the Parties to the extent possible, while respecting the integrity of the Union’s Single Market and the Customs Union as well as the United Kingdom’s internal market, and recognising the development of an independent trade policy by the United Kingdom.

– the Parties will retain their autonomy and the ability to regulate economic activity according to the levels of protection each deems appropriate in order to achieve legitimate public policy objectives such as public health, animal health and welfare, social services, public education, safety, the environment including climate change, public morals, social or consumer protection, privacy and data protection, and promotion and protection of cultural diversity. The economic partnership will recognise that sustainable development is an overarching objective of the Parties. The economic partnership will also provide for appropriate general exceptions, including in relation to security.

EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement (Deal) (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October (this date is in a Statutory Instrument)

UPDATE : useful Q&A here.

The EU and the UK have just now jointly announced their negotiators have reached agreement (the Deal).

The UK Prime Minister will arrive imminently in Brussels for the Summit of European Union Member State Leaders, along with the other Leaders.

I hope the legal text will be issued shortly. If it is, I will update this post online – or post a separate Blog post.

The Deal is expected to be agreed by the EU27 Leaders today.

As we know, the last version of the Withdrawal Agreement failed it’s UK Parliament ratification stage.

The Leader of the House of Commons confirmed earlier today the UK government is planning to move a *single* motion on Saturday, presenting a choice to UK MPs (that take their seats, Sinn Fein excluded therefore) between this Deal & No Deal, fulfilling simultaneously the requirements of *both* the Benn Act and s. 13 of the EU (Withdrawal) Act (i.e. the meaningful vote).

UPDATE : the Commons leader’s office clarifies the Government will table two motions for Saturday – deal or no deal – and will only move one depending on outcome of Brussels summit.

It WILL NOT be a single, either or, motion.

If the House of Commons approves the deal on Saturday, the UK government will move on Monday to introduce the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) (a Brexit Law) that must be passed if the UK is to ratify the Agreement.

[note the Environment Bill is also scheduled for its Second Reading next Wednesday, as well]

Please expect further Blog posts on the matter – in particular on those aspects which are different from the original Withdrawal Agreement.

Environment Bill (published) – Part 4 (England & UK Part)

The Bill is here. 130 Clauses in 8 Parts, and 20 Schedules.

The Explanatory Memorandum is here.

The Environment Bill (“the Bill”) is comprised of two thematic halves.

(1) A legal framework for environmental governance once the UK leaves the EU.

This was earlier published in part as the draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill on 19 December 2018, fulfilling a legal obligation set out in section 16 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The measures published at that time related only to environmental principles and governance, and placing the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing.

I posted two Blog posts about this (Brexit) – one on Parts 1&2 and one on the Environment Bill changing UK REACH (Brexit Law).

(2) Provision for specific improvement of the environment, including measures on waste and resource efficiency, air quality and environmental recall, water, nature and biodiversity, and conservation covenants.

SPECIFIC IMPROVEMENT of the ENVIRONMENT

Part 4 – Air Quality and Environmental Recall Part of the Environment Bill – includes –

amending Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 (which creates the Local Air Quality Management Framework) to strengthen the requirements in respect of the National Air Quality Strategy, including a requirement for it to be regularly reviewed;

amending the Local Air Quality Management Framework to clarify duties and enable greater cooperation between different levels of local government, and other relevant public bodies, in the preparation of Local Air Quality Action Plans;

amending Part III of the Clean Air Act 1993 to enable quicker, simpler and more proportionate enforcement of Smoke Control Areas, a key means by which local authorities can control pollution from domestic solid fuel burning;

Specifically – Schedule 13 would amend the Clean Air Act 1993 to give local authorities the power to impose financial penalties for the emission of smoke in smoke control areas (SCAs) in England. This means that the emission of smoke from a chimney of a building or a chimney (not being a chimney of a building) that serves the furnace of any fixed boiler or industrial plant in an SCA in England will change from being a criminal offence to instead being subject to a civil penalty notice (a fine).

The change will remove the current statutory defences that are making enforcement by local authorities very challenging, and reduce the burden and cost associated with enforcing SCAs.

– amending Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA) to remove the private dwelling exemption (from statutory nuisance enforcement), enabling a local authority in England to pursue somebody who emits smoke from a private dwelling in a Smoke Control Area where it is prejudicial to human health or causing a nuisance.

– removing the limit on the fine for the offence of selling controlled solid fuels for delivery (leaving it to the discretion of the Magistrate’s Court), and creating a new duty on retailers to notify customers of the law regarding the acquisition of controlled solid fuels in England, to help raise consumer awareness and improve compliance.

providing for mandatory recall notices for vehicles and equipment that do not comply with relevant environmental standards and for fines to be issued when a minimum recall rate is not met.

As a Bill, this document would need to pass both Houses of Parliament to enter the statute books. You note, I pegged this as England.

However, some Clauses are intended to have effect outside England – see page 194 of the Explanatory Memorandum which has a table.

If the Bill enters the statute books, the provisions then need to be commenced, some may be commenced immediately, such as those that are needed directly for EU Exit, but there could be a substantive delay in the commencement of other Part, such as Part 4.

I will issue further Blog posts, please look out for them.

What is happening re the Withdrawal Agreement (Northern Ireland Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October (this date is in a Statutory Instrument)

UPDATE : the revised Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol is here.

Open Europe has usefully done a track changes here.

At 1.08am this morning Tony Connolly (RTE News) tweeted the following re the Customs and Consent aspects RTE News understands is agreed between the EU and UK negotiators re a new Ireland Protocol to the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement – [I have numbered]

[the EU and the UK are presently negotiating a revised Ireland Protocol (“backstop”) to the Withdrawal Agreement (the “deal”), in the hopes that it can be agreed by the UK Parliament where the original Withdrawal Agreement had failed before]

[remember : in the original Withdrawal Agreement, the Ireland Protocol (backstop to prevent a hard land border) would kick in once the Transition/Implementation period and any time extension to it had elapsed, and it would operate until a new Free Trade Deal (FTA) had been agreed between the EU and the UK.]

[remember : if the Withdrawal Agreement is agreed, and the necessary Withdrawal Implementation Bill is enacted in the UK, then the UK exits on 31st October, but stays aligned with the EU, accepting EU Law, and the operation of the Brexit Law is delayed, until December 2020 (the end of the Transition/Implementation Period unless it itself is extended)]

(1) Customs: Northern Ireland is legally in the UK’s customs territory, but would apply the EU’s rules and procedures on tariffs.

(2) Northern Ireland would also be aligned with the rules of the single market for industrial goods and agri-food products, meaning both regulatory and customs checks and controls on the Irish Sea for goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

(3) However, the extent of the controls would be reduced thanks to a series of tariff exemptions.

(4) There would be an automatic exemption for personal goods and possessions carried by those travelling back and forth between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, or, for example, if an individual was moving house.

(5) However, there would potentially be a broader category of goods and tradable products that could be exempt from tariffs and controls if there was no risk whatsoever of such goods entering EU’s single market across the land border.

(6) These categories of goods would be decided on in the future by the Joint Committee of EU and UK officials by consensus.

(7) The Joint Committee was established in the original Withdrawal Agreement as a way for both sides to manage the new arrangements.

(8) The intensity and scope of Irish Sea checks would be limited by a risk-analysis. However, the EU would, through the Joint Committee, have a veto over which kinds of goods would enjoy an exemption from tariffs and controls.

(9) There would also be a system of rebates for goods shipped from Great Britain to Northern Ireland if those goods attracted an EU tariff that was higher than the UK tariff.

(10) Consent: The mechanism essentially provides a qualified opt-out of the revised backstop arrangements via the NI Assembly.

(11) Northern Ireland would take on the new customs and regulatory regime for four years after the end of the transition period, which is due to conclude at the end of 2020.

[presumably the date of the start of this new customs and regulatory regime could be delayed by extending the transition period, the original Withdrawal Agreement allowed for the transition period to be extended as an alternative – Tony Connolly does not say] UPDATE – the option to extend the transition period is in the Withdrawal Agreement – deadline is 30 June 2020 for UK-EU Joint Committee to decide whether to extend transition beyond 31st December 2020.

(12) At that point Stormont would have to take a view as to whether or not to opt out of the new arrangements.

[Stormont is the Northern Ireland Assembly that has not met for 1,000 days, efforts are underway to restart it]

(13) If Stormont voted to opt out, then there would be a two year cooling off period, during which all sides would have to find an alternative way of complying with the Good Friday Agreement and avoiding a hard border.

(14) If at the end of the two years no alternative was found, then the Protocol would lapse, meaning Ireland would be back to a hard border scenario.

(15) However, if the Stormont Assembly were to collapse during that period, then the default would be that the Protocol arrangements would continue to apply (ie, the revised backstop).

(16) But there will also be important variations on how Stormont votes for a potential exit.

(17) If Stormont decides to use a simple majority vote, which is seen as less favourable to the DUP, then if that vote to opt out does not succeed, then Stormont would vote again four years on an opt out.

(18) However, if Stormont decided to go for a cross-community majority vote, which is seen as more favourable to the DUP, and the vote did not pass, then Stormont would have to wait another eight years before having another opt-out vote.

[the UK has already issued its temporary arrangements for waiving customs and checks applying to goods moving from Ireland to Northern Ireland, I Blog posted about that]