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.

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]

Moving Goods from Ireland to Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Brexit)

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

[this Blog does not focus on Customs or VAT, this post is made only because the changes are substantive]

Today HMRC updated (in a major way) and reissued its guidance on customs procedures applying in Northern Ireland.

Here

Goods moving between Ireland and Northern Ireland will face different procedures compared to other UK-EU trade.

You will not need to:

• get a customs agent or an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number

• pay Customs Duty or make import or export declarations to HMRC

You should also consider advice issued by the Irish government about their requirements for goods moving into or out of Ireland.

This was the case in the March instructions (see Blog post then).

What is added is information about moving controlled and licensed goods, transitional simplified procedures and moving goods under transit.

HMRC also issued updated instructions on excise duty applying to exports to Ireland and imports from Ireland.

Export – here.

Import – here.

Customs and VAT processes in Northern Ireland will also change if there is an orderly exit. I will be issuing further Blog posts.

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.

Export Health Certificates (NI Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October (this date is set out in a statutory instrument)

An Export Health Certificate (EHC) is an official document that confirms a food or animal export meets the health and quality requirements of the importing country.

The EHC has to be signed by a vet or other qualified person in the exporting country after they have inspected the goods.

Food products being imported into the EU from a non-member state require EHCs.

They’re signed by vets to assure the importing country that produce is safe and without them trade can’t happen.

Around 18,000 of them a year are currently produced in Northern Ireland mostly to cover the trade in live animals to Britain.

This Blog does not cover animal or food trade, but many have asked me questions on this matter, and so here is my Blog post.

Various persons raise the issue of scarcity of vets and EHC costs, in Northern Ireland. It is possible the UK could cut a deal that would see it follow the EU’s rules for a period after Brexit, allowing trade to continue while a permanent arrangement was worked out. But this would not get around the need for a huge number of trade certificates, in any event.

DAERA (the relevant NI agency) says it is recruiting new staff and retraining existing ones to cope with the new trading arrangements.

“While we anticipate that current trade will adjust, it is difficult to gauge demand for certification as businesses may not make decisions until post Brexit. We are currently assessing the resources available and how we will prioritise based on the potential scale of the demands.”

It is encouraging businesses to sign up to advice workshops it’s beginning to run from next week.

Goods Moving between Ireland & Northern Ireland (UK Brexit)

I posted before about the international border on the island of Ireland.

Exit day is 12th April 2019.

[A] From Ireland (EU) to Northern Ireland (UK) after 12th April 2019

* No new requirements or checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

* Northern Irish traders must make declarations if they trade in dangerous chemicals, ozone depleting substances or F-gases (as the rest of UK – rUK).

* Northern Irish traders must use Belfast International Airport as the designated point of entry into Northern Ireland for endangered species.

* Northern Irish companies must have a licence to export dual-use goods (as rUK).

* Northern Irish companies must make declarations if they import animals and animal products from outside the EU that have not been checked in the EU. [this is different to rUK – for rUK see here]

* Northern Irish companies must follow rUK rules for importing plant products from Ireland – see here.

These are the only new processes which will be introduced.

Information on the temporary special Customs arrangements is here. This Blog does not focus on Customs, Tariffs or VAT aspects of borders.

[B] From Northern Ireland (UK) to Ireland (UK) after 12th April 2019

No announcements are yet made on the Irish Border specifics.

Follow this site for information on the Irish arrangements for its trade with the UK – here.

[the exit day may change, please keep following this Blog]

I will Blog again on this subject when further information is available.