Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee (Northern Ireland)

The UK left the EU at end of January 2020. The EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement (an international treaty) requires a Joint Committee staffed by the EU and the UK to operate the Withdrawal Agreement going forward.

The Withdrawal Agreement contains specific measures that will apply in Northern Ireland after the transition period expires, i.e. from 1st January 2021.

The Joint Committee (amongst other matters) will oversee and operate these Northern Ireland measures.

The first meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee will take place on Monday 30th March (by remote means).

The meeting will be co-chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP and Vice-President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič.

The agenda will include four items:

1. Introduction and opening remarks from co-chairs

2. UK/EU Updates on implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement

3. Tasks and responsibilities of the Specialised Committees

4. AOB

The UK Delegation will include:

●   Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

●   The Paymaster General, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP

Brexit and COVID-19 measures (UK)

The UK left the EU at end of January 2020, and will leave the transition period at end of December 2020.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 11th March 2020.

These two events are prompting substantive changes in many occupational, health and safety, and environment related measures in the UK (substantive measures are also being taken in other countries, and at EU level).

The UK’s Brexit measures are found here.

[the vast majority of the UK’s Brexit measures are unchanged since any update made in February 2020]

The UK’s COVID-19 measures are found here.

[the vast majority of the UK’s COVID-19 measures date March 2020]

The UK’s Brexit and the COVID-19 measures are rooted in law. Cardinal Environment Limited advises on occupational health and safety law and environmental law via Email Alert to subscribers to Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists. The next Email Alert on UK Registers & Checklists will be at end March (the monthly UK Email Alert as usual).

Subscribers are reminded that they can request Annual Review (a teleconference) on renewal of annual subscriptions.

Of particular note are –

(1) changes around borders

(2) changes around goods transport

(3) changes around people mobility, including across borders

(4) changes around workplace organisation, particularly additional requirements to keep the workplace safe and provide for home working

(5) temporary bans on the opening of some business premises on health grounds

(6) changes around worker employment (this Blog does not address detailed matters of Employment Law)

EU Readiness Notices (EU Brexit)

The UK is exiting the transition period on 31st December.

The European Commission is reviewing – and where necessary updating – the over 100 sector-specific stakeholder preparedness notices it published during the Article 50 negotiations with the UK.

The documents (updated so far) are published as ‘notices for readiness’ for 1st January 2021 –

(1) Air Transport – here

(2) Aviation safety – here

(3) Consumer protection and passenger rights – here

(4) Cosmetic products – here

(5) Animal feed – here

(6) Food law – here

(7) Industrial products – here

(8) Medicinal products for human use and veterinary medical products – here

(9) Movements of live animals – here

(10) Online sale of goods with subsequent parcel delivery – here

(11) Plant health – here

The transition period ends on 31st December, unless it is extended by agreement.

UK-EU CFTA (UK Brexit)

I posted earlier about the UK policy paper published on its proposed Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) with the EU.

Note : the UK government has since notified it does not wish to seek continued relationship with EASA (the EU’s aviation safety regulator) or EWRS (the EU’s early warning and response system), and it will not seek a waiver from the EU’s safety and security declarations. Accordingly, it envisages (and has notified relevant GB business via stakeholder notice, reported in the Daily Telegraph this morning) the EU will implement the UCC safety and security requirements on GB-EU trade. The UK will set its own requirements.

These EASA and EWRS aspects were already reported in the press.

The extract published by the Daily Telegraph’s Peter Foster (twitter) indicates the UK’s Border Delivery Group (BDG) expects to publish further on the matter of safety and security declarations at the end of March.

Please remember, different arrangements will apply in Northern Ireland.

This Blog does not focus on customs, vat or tariffs.

Medicines and Medical Devices Bill (UK Brexit)

The (Brexit) Medicines and Medical Devices Bill 2019-20 was announced in the Queen’s Speech on 19 December 2019. The second reading is taking place today.

A large proportion of the legal framework for medicines and medical devices in the UK derives from EU Directives and has been implemented into domestic legislation through section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 (ECA). This enables EU Directives to be transposed into UK law through secondary legislation and has been used to create a body of regulations that include the:

• Human Medicines Regulations 2012

• Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) Regulations 2004

• Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013

• Medical Devices Regulations 2002.

At the end of the Transition Period, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (see the Brexit Law List in subscribers’ systems) will have preserved these frameworks as “retained EU Law”. Since the ECA is now no longer available (due to the Act that implemented the Withdrawal Agreement), there is no other ‘general power’ for updating these regulations from 1st January 2021, except through the introduction of new primary legislation.

The Medicines and Medical Devices Bill seeks to address this regulatory gap through introducing regulation-making, delegated powers covering the fields of

* human medicines,

* clinical trials of human medicines,

* veterinary medicines, and

* medical devices.

Its purpose is to enable the existing regulatory frameworks to be updated at the end of the Transition Period.

The Bill has been drawn to create ‘targeted’ delegated powers which can only be exercised in relation to a restricted number of matters. The Government states in the Explanatory Notes to the Bill that it intends to use these powers to keep the existing regulatory frameworks updated, while also consolidating the enforcement regime for medical devices. In addition, the Bill will provide the Secretary of State with the ability to impose civil sanctions – as an alternative to criminal prosecution – for breaches of the medical device regime.

Further details are set out in this Commons Briefing – here.

UK-EU Comprehensive Trade Deal (UK Brexit)

Today the UK Government published its policy paper setting out its approach to negotiations for a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) with its neighbours, the EU27 bloc. The document is here.

Key aspects –

* It is a vision of a relationship based on friendly cooperation between sovereign equals, with both parties respecting one another’s legal autonomy and right to manage their own resources as they see fit. Whatever happens, the Government will not negotiate any arrangement in which the UK does not have control of its own laws and political life. That means that we will not agree to any obligations for our laws to be aligned with the EU’s, or for the EU’s institutions, including the Court of Justice, to have any jurisdiction in the UK.

* The Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) should be – on the lines of the FTAs already agreed by the EU in recent years with Canada and with other friendly countries.

* The CFTA should be supplemented by a range of other international agreements covering, principally, fisheries, law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, transport, and energy.

* All these agreements should have their own appropriate and precedented governance arrangements, with no role for the Court of Justice.

The EU27 and the UK confirm a progress review will take place in June (this was in the Withdrawal Agreement). In the event that progress is not made, the EU27 and the UK will revert to No Deal. [The Withdrawal Agreement includes an option to extend the transition period for 1-2 years.]

Please note, the Brexit Notices issued by the EU27 and the UK in 2018 and 2019 set out the arrangements that would have applied in 2019 if the Withdrawal Agreement was not agreed (No Deal). The Withdrawal Agreement having been agreed, connectivity, on for the most part the same basis as before, is provided to the end of the transition period (Dec 2020) – the period we are in at the moment.

The 2018/2019 Brexit Notices now apply to No (EU-UK relations) Deal from 1st January 2021. Some updates, notably to processes, documents and dates, are included (as you will have been noticing as I have been posting on this blog).

Whilst it is envisaged that a basic level of travel connectivity will continue after end Dec, organisations and individuals wherever located should now prepare for the new arrangements, tariffs etc, between the EU27 and the UK, that will apply from 1st January 2021. This Blog does not notify on customs, VAT or tariffs, it is focused on ENV and OHS related regulatory matters.

Please keep following this Blog, as further details of the arrangements that will apply for ENV and OHS related regulatory matters from 1st January 2021, are published.

Please note, we expect to meet the deadline for supply of the necessary new UK Registers & Checklists (in all regional variants) by 1st January 2021.

Subscribers will note that provision is already starting to appear on their existing websites.

Environment Bill (England & UK Brexit)

The Environment Bill returns to the Commons for Second Reading today. It is a slightly different Bill to 2019. Please reprise the posts I wrote in 2019, I summarise the changes (from those posts) below – I had got as far as Water – please find those posts in the Environment Bill category on this blog.

Targets (unchanged from 2019 Bill) – reprising because I didn’t set these out before – England only (targets are within the competencies of devolved legislatures)

– allow government to set long-term targets (of at least 15 years duration) in relation to the natural environment and people’s enjoyment of the natural environment via statutory instrument;

– require government to meet long-term targets, and to prepare remedial plans where long-term targets are not met;

– require government to set, by October 2022, at least one long-term target in each of the priority areas of air quality, water, biodiversity, and resource efficiency and waste reduction;

– require government to set and meet an air quality target for fine particulate matter in ambient air (PM2.5);

– require government to periodically review all environmental targets to assess whether meeting them would significantly improve the natural environment in England.

Note Clause 20 – Clause 20: Reports on international environmental protection legislation (this is unchanged from 2019 Bill, but I did not spell it out before) – this clause places an obligation on the Secretary of State to produce a report on significant developments in international environmental protection legislation, every two years, and lay it before Parliament. England only (competencies are within the competencies of devolved legislatures).

The scope and content of the report will be determined by the Secretary of State – see subsection (5). However, in a given reporting period it could cover: significant developments in the legislation of other countries that are mainly concerned with seeking to protect the natural environment from the effects of human activity or protecting people from the effects of human activity on the environment; legislation on the maintenance, restoration or enhancement of the natural environment; or legislative provisions around monitoring, assessing, considering and reporting and monitoring on these matters. The report will not extend to reviewing or considering the planning systems of other countries.

OEP (Office for Environmental Protection) – unchanged from 2019 Bill – see Blog posts on this – England only (establishing an OEP is within the competencies of devolved legislatures – Scotland indicated it would go this direction see its Environmental Strategy – see my post of yesterday).

Changes to UK REACH – unchanged from 2019 Bill

Waste, Air and Water appear unchanged from the 2019 Bill, and I have Blog posted before about these topics. Nonetheless, I will Blog again re Waste, because this is highly complex and a lot of new processes are announced. Please read the Explanatory Notes – here.

New Blog posts will be made about the rest of the Bill, please look out for those.