Here we'll be bringing you the latest developments in the Brexit process, as both the UK and EU try to reach an agreement on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal. Our Brexit policy page highlights all of our latest briefings, responses and position papers on Brexit-related legislation and parliamentary inquiries. We've also created a Brexit Q&A, which we will continue to update at every stage of the process.
General update - 29 July 2020
There is now a transition period until 31 December 2020 while the UK and EU negotiate additional arrangements. The current rules on trade, travel, and business for the UK and EU will continue to apply during the transition period. New rules will take effect on 1 January 2021.
The EU and the UK are negotiating a future relationship based on friendly cooperation for the benefit of citizens and businesses across both the UK and EU and which will take the form of a Free Trade Agreement. This Agreement which covers all areas in the Political Declaration is supposed to be concluded and ratified by 31 December 2020 (defined as IP Completion Day in the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 or the Transition Period in the Withdrawal Agreement). It will require the UK’s withdrawal from a number of EU legal frameworks at the end of the transition period including the Internal Market and the Customs Union. This will create barriers to trade and cross-border exchanges which do not apply today.
There will be deep and far-reaching consequences for public administration, businesses and citizens as of 1 January 2021, regardless of the outcome of negotiations. These changes are unavoidable so business and individuals must be aware of this possibility and the consequences that may lie ahead. The Commission is reviewing – and where necessary updating – the over 100 sector-specific stakeholder preparedness notices it published during the Article 50 negotiations with the UK. The EU Taskforce for Relations with the UK webpage Readiness Notices also covers 26 topics so far including consumer safety, food law and environmental matters.
The UK on the other hand has not yet published technical notices as it did in the run up to withdrawal from the EU. However it has identified actions you can do now which do not depend on the outcome of the negotiations and some specialist guidance is available for telecoms, gas or oil businesses, exporting cultural items and generating low carbon electricity and how they will be affected by changes in the law from 1 January 2021.
During this transitional period until 31 December 2020 EU laws will still apply to the UK and the European Communities Act 1972 will still be in force. However, given the breadth of Free Trade Agreements generally, coupled with the undertaking that any UK/EU agreement will be particularly ambitious in scope, it is possible that not all areas of law and legal practice will be given detailed consideration at this stage. Our webinar series and our research paper on the future impact and effect of Brexit on Scots Law and the Scottish legal system highlight the relevant issues to consider until such time as a fully comprehensive agreement is in place.
We'll also be highlighting the latest publications from relevant and reliable sources of interest. For any further information, or if you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Head of International, Katie Hay, at email@example.com or 0131 476 8351.
Our Brexit webinar series looks at the impact of the UK’s departure from the EU on Scots law and legal practice. While the UK and the EU will attempt to negotiate an agreement for our future relationship throughout 2020 after the UK's formal departure on 31 January, given the breadth of areas it will need to cover, it is possible that the agreement reached will not be sufficiently detailed to cover all aspects of legal practice and further negotiation will be necessary. As a result it is still a good idea to familiarise yourself with the material we prepared in the event of a no-deal Brexit, in case no agreement is reached on these areas of law by the end of the year.
After four rounds of the EU-UK future relationship negotiations a number of obstacles have yet to be overcome in relation to key areas such as level playing field provisions, fisheries, and governance of the future relationship (an exchange of letters between the chief negotiators for the UK and the EU ahead of round four reflected the sense of frustration on both sides and gulf that existed between their respective positions).
On 15 June, a high-level conference took place between the UK Prime Minister and presidents of the relevant EU institutions. This conference marked a symbolic 'halfway point' and a new schedule of talks, to take place in-person where possible, was agreed in the knowledge that no extension to the transition period was to be sought. This included formal rounds and four more restricted rounds or specialised meetings to focus on issues of particular difficulty:
- Restricted round & specialised sessions: week of 29 June to 3 July (Brussels)
- Specialised sessions: week of 6 July (London)
- Specialised sessions: week of 13 July (Brussels)
- Round 5: week of 20 July to 24 July (London)
- Specialised sessions: week of 27 July (London)
- Round 6: week of 17 August to 21 August (Brussels)
Both sides have reported some progress following round 5 and the restricted and specialised sessions that preceded it in areas such as governance, the rule of the CJEU and police and judicial cooperation but major divergence still exists in relation to level playing field and fisheries.
The EU Commission has published its mandate for negotiations with the UK on the future relationship.
The Ministry of Justice has published a Get Ready for Brexit Toolkit for Lawyers, which is essentially an inventory of all of the guidance it has published relating to practice areas and practice rights. You can access it here.
The Scottish Government has published a series of advisory notices on the effect of a no-deal Brexit on devolved areas of law. You can access these notices here.
As the threat of leaving the EU with no deal in place intensifies, the volume of publications advising businesses, professionals and citizens of the impact of no-deal on various aspects of Brexit has increased sharply and there is too much too continue to list in date order. Here is a selection of latest publications as well as links to sources of further information.
The UK Government updated its guidance on the rights and status of UK nationals living and travelling in the EU. It also updated its partnership pack for businesses with further information about preparing for changes at the UK border after a ‘no deal’ EU exit.
On 20 December the UK Government published a separation agreement with the EEA EFTA states (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), the aim of which is to protect the rights of citizens who have chosen to call each other’s countries home; and also to resolve a small number of other issues arising from the UK’s exit from the EU.
Scottish Enterprise has launched its own “specially designed Brexit self-assessment tool”. Its purpose is to help businesses identify how Brexit might affect them, providing bespoke recommendations for action to help their planning activities. It will also be home to the Brexit 15-point checklist, news, articles, access to experts and event listings. Further information is available here.