Brexit and COVID-19 measures (EU)

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 EU member states and at EU level.

The EU’s Brexit measures are found here.

[the first round of negotiations on a trade deal with the UK to operate from 1st January 2021 was held 2-5 March, the second round is not scheduled]

[the EU published a new draft legal text on 18 March here, new UK legal texts submitted to the EU in March are not published]

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

[note the measures announced to keep air cargo moving – here]

The EU’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 EU-26 Registers & Checklists will be at the next 6-month interval (as usual). Ireland receives monthly Email Alerts due to its connectivity with the UK (its next Email Alert is end of March unless otherwise a different interval is operated).

Subscribers are reminded that they can request Annual Review (a teleconference) on renewal of annual subscriptions, and this is recommended.

Of particular note are –

(1) changes around borders, goods transport and people mobility to keep the Single Market open during the COVID-19 pandemic

(2) measures that may result from the EU-UK trade deal negotiations

Individual member states will be operating internal COVID-19 emergency –

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

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

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

UK-EU Free Trade Agreement (UK Brexit)

The UK government issued today (17th March 2020) the statement set out below –

In light of the latest guidance on coronavirus, we will not formally be convening negotiating work strands tomorrow in the way we did in the previous round.

We expect to share a draft FTA alongside the draft legal texts of a number of the standalone agreements in the near future still, as planned.

Both sides remain fully committed to the negotiations and we remain in regular contact with the European Commission to consider alternative ways to continue discussions, including looking at the possibility of video conferencing or conference calls, and exploring flexibility in the structure for the coming weeks.

The transition period ends on 31 December 2020. This is enshrined in UK law.

The Withdrawal Agreement (the international treaty between the UK and the EU) allows the UK to apply (by end June) to extend the transition period for up to two years.

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.

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.

EU-UK Relations from 1st Jan 2021 (Brexit)

The EU today adopted a decision authorising the opening of negotiations for a new partnership with the UK, and formally nominating the European Commission as EU negotiator. The EU also adopted negotiating directives which constitute a mandate to the European Commission for the negotiations.

Per EU Press Release – here

The EU wishes to establish an ambitious, wide-ranging and balanced economic partnership with the UK. The mandate stresses that the future partnership should be underpinned by robust commitments to ensure a level playing field for open and fair competition, given the EU and the UK’s geographic proximity and economic interdependence.

The EU intends to establish a free trade agreement with the UK which ensures that zero tariffs and quotas apply to trade in goods. This agreement should provide for cooperation on customs and regulatory aspects. It should also include effective management and supervision, dispute settlement and enforcement arrangements.

On fisheries, the mandate outlines that the future partnership should uphold the existing reciprocal access to waters as well as stable quota shares. The agreement on fisheries should be established by 1 July 2020, to give time for determining fishing opportunities after the end of the transition period.

The mandate also contains provisions for future cooperation in areas such as digital trade, intellectual property, public procurement, mobility, transport, and energy.

The EU will seek to establish a comprehensive security partnership with the UK. The partnership should comprise law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, as well as foreign policy, security and defence. The mandate foresees that the future partnership should be embedded in an overall governance framework covering all areas of cooperation.

Link to EU negotiating directives.

Negotiating Directives (EU Brexit)

UPDATE : the draft negotiating directives are here.

UPDATE : the UK Prime Minister’s statement – here (it’s a Ministerial Statement).

The EUTF will present the draft negotiating directives for the future relationship negotiations with the UK in a press conference at 11am CET.

Watch live at this address: audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/ebs/live

I will update this post, online, (you won’t get a new Blog post, so diarise to check back online) with a link to these draft objectives when they are published. These will anyway be found on the EU’s new website (see my earlier Blog post this morning).

The ‘Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom’ (UKTF) was established on 16 November 2019, as part of the European Commission’s Secretariat-General.

It replaces the Task Force for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 TEU, which was created on 1 October 2016 to lead withdrawal negotiations.

Michel Barnier was reconfirmed as Head of the Task Force. The Deputy Head of the Task Force is Clara Martinez Alberola.

The Task Force coordinates all the Commission’s work on all strategic, operational, legal and financial issues related to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, in full respect of European Council guidelines. This includes the negotiations on the future relationship with the UK, the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, as well as the Commission’s ‘no-deal’ preparedness work.

The Task Force operates under the direct authority of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and in close cooperation with the Secretariat-General, all Commission services concerned and the European External Action Service (EEAS).

[the UK Prime Minister will also make a speech this morning, the content of this speech is already briefed to the UK press]

New Website “EU Future Dealings with UK” (EU Brexit)

Transition Period ends 1st January 2021

The EU has set up a new gateway to information on its dealings with the UK – here.

If there is no ratified agreement establishing a future trade deal between the EU and the UK at the end of the transition period, then the United Kingdom will trade with the EU on World Trade Organization terms as of 1 January 2021.

Even if a trade agreement is concluded, it will establish a very different relationship in terms of market access than participating in the EU’s Internal Market and the EU’s Customs Union.

Therefore, the end of the transition period means significant changes in the regulatory relationship between the UK and the EU.

Since Autumn 2017, the EU has Stakeholder Preparedness Notices which set out the instructions for No Deal (in the Article 50 phase). I Blog posted about these a number of times in 2018.

The EU now (in this new gateway) has a new page (from this new gateway) with access to the EU’s No Deal Preparations and the EU’s Stakeholder Preparedness Notices (which are being updated) – here.

Northern Ireland

Please remember (under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement) Northern Ireland will remain aligned to some EU Law.

Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of rules related to the EU’s Single Market in order to avoid a hard border: legislation on goods (including Environment), sanitary rules for veterinary controls (“SPS rules”), rules on agricultural production/marketing, VAT and excise in respect of goods, and state aid rules.

The list of rules is in an Annex to the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol. It’s not easy to find this list. I hope in the future both the EU and the UK set up specific gateways for Northern Ireland.