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 today.

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 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.

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]

Direction of Travel (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October 2019 (this date is set out in a Statutory Instrument)

Today, the UK state issued its text proposal for a new Ireland Protocol (“backstop” in common parlance) to the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement.

Only the letter and explanatory note are published – here.

The letter shows the direction of travel –

Our proposed compromise removes the so-called “backstop” in the previous Withdrawal Agreement. I have explained the difficulties with this elsewhere, including the fact that it has been rejected three times by the UK Parliament. Equally importantly in this context, the backstop acted as a bridge to a proposed future relationship with the EU in which the UK would be closely integrated with EU customs arrangements and would align with EU law in many areas. That proposed future relationship is not the goal of the current UK Government. The Government intends that the future relationship should be based on a Free Trade Agreement in which the UK takes control of its own regulatory affairs and trade policy. In these circumstances the proposed “backstop” is a bridge to nowhere, and a new way forward must be found.

[my emphasis]

The new proposal would create a complicated situation for traders in Northern Ireland, and for trade into Northern Ireland, plus a consent mechanism necessitating initial and repeated four-yearly approval by Stormont (that is not currently meeting).

The next step is for all parties to review the circulated (but unpublished) detailed text, and for the EU on behalf of the Member States, to indicate if the proposal has merit enough to enter into detailed discussion.

Please look out for further Blog posts.

NB – re Eco-design and Right to Repair – the EU agreed it’s new rules today, it seems in time for the 31st October Exit day – I updated the Blog post issued recently. This matter will be in the October Email Alert to subscribers.

UK Product Safety and Metrology (UK Brexit)

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

Today, the UK Office for Product Safety & Standards re-issued with updates the March Instructions on Product Safety and Metrology.

This September document – UK Product Safety and Metrology Guidance in a ‘no deal’ Brexit – is here.

The Product Safety and Metrology etc. (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, as amended by the Product Safety, Metrology and Mutual Recognition Agreement (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, amend local law and retained EU Law, from Exit day.

These Brexit laws are in the subscribers’ Brexit Law List and consolidation is well underway – in the Brexit Consolidated Law List (next upload – start of October).

(1) The Brexit Law alters those legal provisions in UK regulations and retained EU law that would not work effectively when the UK leaves the EU without changes. The Brexit Law objective is to create a functioning regulated UK market.

(2) The safety and other technical requirements are not specifically changed, but processes are changed.

(3) Products lawfully placed on the EU market before the UK leaves the EU can continue to circulate in the UK (for a temporary period, consultation will occur before this period ends, and a new Brexit Law is required for the temporary period to end).

(4) Lawfully CE marked products will continue to be accepted by the UK, intended to be for a time limited period (see above).

(5) Products being placed on the UK market for the first time after the UK leaves the EU must meet the same technical requirements as before – but labelling or notification requirements will change.

(6) A new UK Conformity Assessed marking (“UKCA”) may be used for products that will be placed on the UK market where conformity assessment has been carried out by a UK approved body (formerly a notified body). This is because after Exit day, the EU no longer recognises UK based Notified Bodies and so they will become UK Approved Bodies. The UKCA mark is not yet set up.

(7) Products intended to be exported to the EU that require an independent third-party conformity assessment – this assessment must be carried out by an EU based Notified Body and the products must be ‘CE’ marked (where required) once they have been successfully assessed. After Exit day, this cannot be carried out by a UK Approved Body.

(8) Where currently allowed, UK manufacturers can continue to self-declare that products meet EU rules and place these products on either the UK or EU markets. [please recheck this with the EU import country]

(9) The UK will continue to recognise EU Notified Body conformity assessments, for a time limited period, so manufacturers and importers will still be able to place goods on the UK market lawfully bearing the CE marking where they have been assessed by an EU Notified Body (where required).

(10) The UK will publish a list of references to designated standards that will have the same function as harmonised standards and give presumption of conformity to legal requirements. On Exit day, these designated standards will be the same as the harmonised standards.

(11) When the UK leaves the EU, the role and responsibilities of the manufacturer will be unchanged. However, some UK businesses which bring products into the UK from an EEA State and who were previously “distributors” from Exit day become “importers” acquiring new legal duties, including complying with an enhanced set of requirements to check product compliance as well as to keep documentation and ensure their address appears on the product.

(12) There is an 18-month transitional period for these “new” importers during which they can put their details on documentation accompanying the product, rather than on the product itself. The same will apply to imports from Switzerland for certain products, for the same 18- month period.

(13) Cosmetic products that have the information of the EU responsible person on the container and packaging will be allowed on the UK market for 2 years after the UK leaves the EU, after which the container and packaging will need to bear the name and address of the UK responsible person.

(14) The EU will not have a transitional period and so UK manufacturers exporting to the EU will need immediately after Exit day to have the address of the relevant EU responsible person on the goods they are exporting.

Please read the September document carefully, and also re-check with the EU import country.

EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October 2019

On the evening of 14th May (two days ago), the UK Government said it would bring the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill to Parliament in the week beginning 3rd June 2019 (two weeks time).

The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill is not published. The Bill is needed to implement the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement that is signed but not ratified by the UK.

This Institute for Government explainer sets out information about the Bill – here.

It is unlikely that Parliament will enact the Bill. There are a number of reasons for this, covered in the Institute for Government explainer and publicised almost daily in the media. I will issue a new Blog post if it is; and if it is, it will be a major change to the going forward arrangements.

The Exit day is the day the UK leaves the EU, unless Article 50 is revoked in which case there is no Exit day.

The arrangements for conducting trade with the EU and other matters regulated presently by EU law, after Exit day, will be as set out in ‘No Deal’ Notices and other instructions, and may be subject to change as these arrangements firm up, or new arrangements created. This Blog contains many posts drawing attention to these new arrangements (please check the different Blog categories). I update the posts online if there are updates. Or I issue new Blog posts.

Changes in the date of the Exit day must be agreed between the EU and the UK, and are not in the gift of one side unilaterally. By decision of the European Court, Article 50 may be revoked by the UK on its own.

[The Exit day may change, please keep following this Blog]