Freeports Consultation (UK Brexit)

Yesterday (10th Feb) the UK government announced the start of its consultation on its plan to create 10 freeports in locations across the UK.

The consultation deadline is 20th April.

The Freeports consultation document (UK’s Freeports policy) is here.

The consultation includes policies which relate to the whole of the UK, as well as some which are devolved. Where a policy is devolved, the proposals in the consultation apply to England; responsibility for policy development and implementation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland lies with the devolved administrations. The document states the –

UK Government intends to work in partnership with the devolved administrations to develop proposals which enable the creation of Freeports in all nations of the UK.

(1) Tariffs and Customs – Customs and tariffs policy is reserved to the UK Government. The opportunity for customs and tariff benefits would be available UK-wide.

(2) Tax – Some aspects of tax policy are devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This section consults on tax policies which vary in scope, with some applying UK wide, some in England and Northern Ireland, and others in England only.

(3) Planning – Proposals on permitted development rights and zonal planning relate to England only. Proposals on the National Policy Statement for Ports relate to England and Wales.

(4) Regeneration – Infrastructure, skills and housing are devolved matters and the proposals cover England only. Trade and investment promotion is a “concurrent” power. This means that whilst the UK Government has primacy over trade and investment promotion in the UK, the devolved administrations also pursue promotion activity on behalf of businesses in their nations.

(5) Innovation – Innovation policy is UK wide; although some aspects of university funding are devolved matters, we hope to hear from stakeholders across the UK on these proposals.

The summary of questions is on page 40 of the document’s 48 pages.

For example, Q1 asks To what extent do you agree/disagree that the reduced declaration requirements for moving goods into a Freeport represent a useful simplification of the administration of customs processes?

Note the UK government announcement yesterday of the return of physical border checks and paperwork for EU goods imports from 1st Jan 2021 (Blog post yesterday).

Q8 asks What do you see as the advantages and/or disadvantages of an inland Freeport site compared to a Freeport site which is adjacent to a port?

Q11 asks To what extent would the suspension of import VAT be of value to your business?

Note yesterday’s UK government press release did not confirm the VAT deferral scheme.

Import Controls (UK Brexit)

From 1st January 2021, import controls will apply for EU goods entering Britain.

The Withdrawal Agreement Protocol will apply to trade between Britain and Northern Ireland, and between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Business is directed to prepare for border controls by making sure it has an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, and also looking into how declarations should be made, such as by using a customs agent.

The UK Government will ensure facilitations currently available to rest of the world traders will also be open to those trading between GB and EU.

The press announcement is here.

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.

Emissions Trading Systems (UK Brexit, EU, Switzerland)

As of 1 January 2020, Switzerland is the first country to link its greenhouse gas emissions trading system (SETS) with the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS).

A process that took almost 10 years, is now finalized allowing the entry into force of the entire agreement between the EU and Switzerland on the linking of their greenhouse gas emissions trading systems that was signed in Bern on 23 November 2017 (Agreement).

The EU and Switzerland operate separate greenhouse gas emissions trading systems (ETS) as part of their respective policies to tackle climate change. After the Agreement’s entry into force in 1 January 2020, the SETS is now linked to the much larger EU ETS to allow for the mutual recognition of emission allowances from the two system.

The UK, whilst in the transition period, participates in the EU ETS, and the 2018 suspension applicable to UK auctioning and issuing 2019 allowances is lifted (with access to UK registry accounts continuing). Please confirm this with BEIS.

The UK has a hitherto unused Carbon Tax on its statute books, and has closed its wider (non EU ETS) existing ETS (the CRC carbon trading system). From 1st January 2021, it could seek to continue a UK version of the EU ETS with mutual recognition of allowances between the UK and the EU systems. The linking of the (Switzerland) SETS with the EU ETS would be a reference point for such negotiations.

China, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States are operating or are developing ETSs.

Further information is in this article – here.

Environment Bill (England & UK, Brexit)

Exit day is tomorrow, the transition period will last until 31st December.

The Environment Bill (from the previous session) is being brought back today and given its First Reading in the UK Parliament.

I Blog posted already about the earlier Environment Bill (various sections). When the Bill is published I will reprise those areas that are changed, and Blog post as well on the further sections I had not covered.

To remind – the Environment Bill is an important Bill setting up the Office for Environmental Protection (England) and making further changes to UK REACH to enable it to function from 1st Jan 2021, and additionally setting out other measures (England, and some provisions for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

The government announcement last night signals :

(1) A ban on the export of plastic waste (which was in the Conservative manifesto), additional to the waste provisions in the previous Bill. Note, the waste provisions as signalled do not align with the 2019 EU Single-Use Plastics Directive.

(2) A bi-annual review of international developments in environmental law that it says will inform domestic law making.

Please look out for further Blog posts on the matter, when the Bill is published.

Frontier Workers in UK after 1st Jan 2021 (UK Brexit)

Exit day is Friday, thereafter the UK is in the transition period government by the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement. This transition period is expected to end 31st December 2020.

The UK has today issued instructions for Frontier Workers intending to work in the UK after 1st January 2021.

Frontier Workers are EU, EEA or Swiss citizens regularly commuting to the UK because they are employed or self-employed in the UK but live elsewhere. Frontier Workers are able to switch between jobs.

The document provides information for EU, EEA and Swiss frontier workers who wish to continue working in the UK from 1 January 2021 – here.

Note : further information will be provided by the Home Office. This Blog does not focus on Visas or Immigration.