New European Commission (EU)

EU Commission President-Elect Ursula von der Leyen’s new Commission has been approved by a large majority of MEPs (elected Members to the European Parliament).

461 votes in favour, 157 against, 89 abstentions.

Accordingly, the European Parliament has approved the new College of Commissioners led by Ursula von der Leyen (the Commissioners and herself, it’s a confirmatory vote). Now the European Council has to give its approval by a qualified majority before the new Commission takes office on the 1st December.

More than 200,000,000 citizens voted in the European elections in May, giving a substantive mandate to the new European Parliament. The elections were the first step in a process that culminates with the approval today of the EU’s executive body, the European Commission.

The new Commission will take office on 1st December.

We can expect EU Law making to be up and running again shortly.

Ireland’s Phil Hogan is the Trade Commissioner (he will deal with the Trade Deal with the UK, when that time comes). The UK did not supply a Commissioner.

Environment Bill (published) – Part 5 (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 three Blog posts so far about the first thematic half – one on UK REACH, one on Parts 1&2, and one on the OEP.

(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 5 – Water – includes –

– improving water resources planning, which facilitates collaborative regional planning and considers the needs of all sectors of water users, including the environment;

[in the context of water scarcity in certain locations, although not specifically mentioned, we may need to see the construction of further reservoirs]

– placing on a statutory footing drainage and wastewater planning to assess risks to sewerage networks and network capacity;

– modernising water regulation by reforming elements of the abstraction licensing regime to link it more tightly to the government’s objectives for the water environment;

– enabling updates to be made to the valuation calculations relevant to the apportionment of internal drainage board (IDB) charges in secondary legislation, allowing for the creation of new or expansion of existing IDBs where there is a local desire to do so;

enabling updates to the lists of priority substances that pose a threat to water bodies in line with the latest scientific knowledge, when there are no longer powers under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972.

Clause 79 sets out these powers. Note the consent requirements re the devolved administrations –

– Clause 79 Subsection (4) establishes that the Secretary of State can only exercise the powers in this section to make provision that could be made by the Welsh Ministers or Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs under their own powers in clauses 80 and 81 respectively with their consent.

– Clause 79 Subsection (5) establishes that the Secretary of State cannot exercise the powers in this section to make provisions which would fall within the Scottish Parliament’s devolved competency, given effect by powers under an Act of that Parliament, with the exception of parts of the cross border river basin districts lying in Scotland, where the Secretary of State could exercise the powers to make provisions but only with Scottish Ministers’ consent.

– Clause 79 Subsection (6) establishes the consultation requirements attached to the exercise of the powers. Subsection (6)(b) requires the Secretary of State to consult with Welsh Ministers when making regulations applying to an England and Wales cross-border River Basin District (RBD) that lies in England, and when the Welsh Ministers’ consent is not required under subsection (4). This would mean consultation is only required if the provision being made is only for the English part and does not apply to the part in Wales. Subsection (5)(c) places the same consultation requirements on the Secretary of State in relation to the cross-border RBDs shared with Scotland.

Note –

– Clause 80 confers a regulation, broadly comparable to that in clause 79, on the Welsh Ministers in relation to Wales. Subsection (4) requires consultation with the Natural Resources Body for Wales, other interested persons or bodies, and with the Secretary of State when exercising the power in relation to the Welsh part of a cross-border RBD.

– Clause 81 confers the same power on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in relation to Northern Ireland.

—————

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. And see earlier re environmental quality standards and substance lists.

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 5.

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

Exit day (EU & UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st January 2020 (a Statutory Instrument will be issued shortly)

The Exit day has been put back, and the UK government will today seek approval to hold a general election in December.

There are further steps after the expected election approval later today, notably re Northern Ireland (where the government there did not meet the deadline to resume operation) and then five weeks of the campaign.

There are further steps after the election date – the swearing in of the MPs, election of the Speaker, Queens Speech etc.

It is expected UK Law making will resume at the start of January 2020.

The Environment Bill passed its Second Reading last night, and its associated timetable and ways and means motions also passed.

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed its Second Reading some days ago, but its associated timetable motion was not agreed.

The Budget will be held over until the New Year.

Please look out for further Blog posts.

Exit day (UK and EU Brexit)

The current Exit day is 31st October – Thursday week.

This evening, the Programme Motion to timetable the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill beyond its Second Reading failed, and the Bill is in limbo.

Remember – the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (when enacted) will ratify the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement.

The UK Prime Minister has responded that he will talk to the EU about the Exit day extension request that was received by them from the UK on Saturday last.

The EU is expected to grant an extension to the Exit day.

Please look out for further Blog posts on the matter.

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 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]