Withdrawal Agreement Bill (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st January (next Friday)

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill is now enacted as the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 (the UK 2020 Act). It amends the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and will be added to the Brexit Law List, in the EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists of subscribers systems.

The Bill was enacted unaltered. I already Blog posted about the Bill contents before Christmas. The Bill Explanatory Notes are here.

In brief :

(1) The EU-UK Withdrawal Treaty is now ratified on the UK side.

(2) The EU-UK Withdrawal Treaty is here (ratification is proceeding on the EU side).

(3) The UK must set up an Independent Monitoring Authority to oversee the citizen rights elements of the Withdrawal Treaty.

(4) Both sides must set up the Joint Committee, and its sub-committees, to manage implementation of the Withdrawal Treaty.

(5) A transition period will commence from 1st February and last until 31st December 2020 (the UK 2020 Act terms this an Implementation Period).

(6) The Withdrawal Treaty provides for a single extension of the transition period for up to one or two years, the final date for application for this is end June.

The UK 2020 Act prevents the application. So for an application to be made, a further Act would need to be enacted on this point.

(7) The Northern Ireland/Ireland Protocol to the Withdrawal Treaty commences at the end of the transition period. I blog posted already about this Protocol. The UK 2020 Act stipulates the Protocol will be enacted by Regulations made under the UK 2020 Act.

(8) During the transition period, nothing substantive changes for business or citizens, and the Brexit Law statutory instrument changes to UK domestic law are delayed until 1st Jan 2021.

Hence, subscribers existing EHS Legislation & Registers are relabelled Brexit Transition.

(9) From 1st Feb, the UK is free to make trade deals, these trade deals could alter domestic law.

(10) From 1st Jan 2021, the Brexit Law statutory instrument changes to UK domestic law have legal effect. These freeze UK domestic law implementation of EU law as at 31st Dec 2020. In practice, however, the vast bulk of the UK Brexit Law was enacted in March/April 2019, and so unless reissued, it reflects EU law at that date.

Some EU law will need implementing in 2020.

I wrote separate Blog posts about EU Law in UK 2020 and EU Law in UK 2021.

During 2020, please expect to see further Blog posts on this topic.

Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st January 2020

The updated Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) is now published – here.

The Explanatory Notes for the updated WAB are here.

Two clauses giving a role for Parliament, including relating to negotiating objectives for the next phase, are removed, these were Clauses 30 and 31.

Clause 34 and Schedule 4 on workers’ rights are also gone. Explanatory notes to the Queen’s Speech identify the government will bring forward an Employment Bill in this legislative period 2019-2020 (this Blog does not focus on employment law, save for health and safety aspects).

Among the 5 new clauses:

Clause 30 on Withdrawal Treaty Joint Committee dispute resolution reporting

Clause 33 banning Ministers from agreeing to an extension to the transition period (termed implementation period in the bill)

Clause 35 banning the use of written procedure in the Withdrawal Treaty Joint Committee

Clause 36 repealing spent enactments

Re: the briefed stories about letting lower courts depart from CJEU judgments, rather than just the Supreme Court and High Court of Justiciary – this seems to be catered for by a new subsection in clause 26(1) that gives Ministers a power to decide when lower courts can do this.

Another change is in clause 20. In October the WAB had what’s called a standing service provision, which authorises expenditure to the EU for sums owed under the WA treaty. It was time limited last time (to March 2021) but a Minister could extend it. No more can it be extended.

Last time the Bill only had provisions about House of Commons scrutiny of developments in EU law during the transition period (the European Scrutiny Committee could force debates in the Commons). It seems there is now the same role in the Lords for its EU Committee in clause 29. During the transition period, the Bill incorporates developments in EU law into UK Law and stays (delays) the effect of Brexit Law changing the UK statute base so it can stand alone.

It also seems like Schedule 2 has been amended a bit. It now looks like the Independent Monitoring Authority can delegate decisions about starting inquiries and legal proceedings (where it couldn’t before) and that its functions can be transferred more easily than before.

There may be other changes that are identified or that are accepted as the Bill is scrutinised.

The Second Reading is scheduled for tomorrow, which will be easily carried. The Bill will then go forward for scrutiny in the usual fashion once Parliament returns from its holidays.

Parliament will take its Christmas holidays at the end of tomorrow, to return again on 6th January.

The WAB will amend the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. In addition to bringing in the transition period to 31st December 2020 (known as the Implementation Period completion day) the fact of enactment of the WAB, will delay the deadline for application to the EU Settled Status Scheme to June 2021.

If there are further substantive changes to the WAB, I will post again, otherwise not.

Queens Speech (UK)

Exit day is 31st January 2020 – DExEU government department will close on that day

Of relevance (for this Blog) in the Queen’s Speech today are :

(1) the Environment Bill – this will be brought back with alterations

(2) a new Fire safety and Building safety bill or bills

(3) the withdrawal agreement bill and associated Brexit bills

Please look out for further Blog posts when the bill text is published.

Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st January 2020.

Implementation Period (IP) completion day is 31st December 2020 (this is the date of the end of the Withdrawal Treaty Transition Period).

The Queen’s Speech is tomorrow (Thursday), and I will post specifically on that, once the bills for the new legislative period are identified. Some bills will be of relevance, not least the Environment Bill.

The UK government has signalled it will bring back the WAB in an updated form on Friday, so that it can be enacted by the Exit day.

The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – the WAB – amends the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to give effect to the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty (Oct 2019 revision). It sets out provisions for an orderly exit, and includes a Transition Period – identified as an Implementation Period (IP) in UK Legislation.

The updated text is not yet published. I will post again on the WAB when the updated text is available.

The UK government has signalled it will insert provision for the Lower Courts to overturn decisions of the European Courts. This will affect the definition of waste, among other matters.

There may be other WAB updates of relevance also. Once I see the updated WAB text, I will include a list of the relevant changes in the Blog post.

Please look out for further Blog posts on the WAB.

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.