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Brexit round-up – 08/03/19

Welcome to this, our latest Brexit round-up. Each week we provide a succinct round-up of the latest news surrounding the Brexit process, so you can keep abreast of the issues which are likely to affect your organisation.

Labour leader meets with Tory MPs to prevent a no-deal Brexit

Following a meeting with Tory MPs to discuss alternatives to the Prime Minister’s deal if it was rejected again by Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn said: “I am reaching out to all groups in Parliament to try and prevent a no-deal Brexit which I think would be very damaging.” Mr Corbyn said he had agreed to meet with Conservative MPs because he was adamantly opposed to a no-deal exit and wanted to hear “what their ideas and options are.” He said he had discussed the so-called “Common Market 2.0 option” but would not commit to backing it at this stage. MPs will vote on whether to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday 12 March 2019.

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UK urged to offer ‘acceptable’ Brexit plan

EU officials have confirmed that they would work non-stop over the weekend if “acceptable” ideas were received by 8 March 2019, from the UK, to break the deadlock over the Irish backstop. Negotiations between British ministers and the EU officials over the past 24 hours, aimed at securing legal guarantees about the Irish backstop, have been described as “difficult”, with the EU insisting there has been no breakthrough. The UK has said “reasonable” proposals to satisfy MPs’ concerns about being tied to EU rules has already been made.

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Government suffers defeat over Trade Bill

On 6 March 2019, the House of Lords inflicted a defeat on a Labour amendment to the Trade Bill (by 207 against 141), which had called on the Government to negotiate a new customs union with the EU. The amendment was intended to make it an “objective” of the Government during Brexit talks to pursue a free trade deal allowing the UK to stay “in a customs union” with the EU after Brexit. MPs will now get the chance to vote on whether or not the UK should remain in the customs union when the Trade Bill returns to the House of Commons. International Trade Minister Baroness Fairhead said the amendment would require disputes to be heard by UK courts which “has the potential to undermine a successful and internationally accepted framework.”

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British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) comments on workers’ rights proposals

On 5 March 2019, ministers offered the following commitments to MPs ahead of the vote on Theresa May’s deal on 12 March: (1) MPs will be given a vote on adopting future EU rules on workers’ rights; (2) Trade unions will be consulted in advance on any proposed future changes; and (3) There will be a new single enforcement body to protect vulnerable and agency workers. Responding to the proposals, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the BCC said: “It is positive that the Government is committing to work closely with businesses and civil society on any future changes to UK employment and health and safety laws. We will await further detail on how these proposals might work in practice.”

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Government publishes information on employing EU seasonal workers after Brexit  

On 4 March 2019, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published a leaflet and information to help employers recruit EU citizens for seasonal work in farming and food businesses after Brexit. Amongst other matters, the documents highlight that EU citizens can continue to come to the UK for seasonal work in 2019 and 2020. If there is a deal, there will be no change to current arrangements for EU citizens in 2019 and 2020. If there is no deal, EU citizens can enter the UK and take up work in 2019 and 2020. EU citizens arriving after 29 March, who want to stay for more than 3 months, will need to register for European Temporary Leave to Remain to continue working in the UK.

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Regulator publishes guidance on state aid notifications and reporting post-Brexit

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published draft procedural guidance setting out general information on the processes the CMA proposes to use, in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, when examining and investigating notified aid measures under the proposed State Aid (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (the Regulations). The CMA states that it will apply the guidance flexibly, meaning the CMA will have regard to the guidance when considering relevant state aid notifications, but that it may take a different approach when the facts of the case justify doing so, for example, if it is necessary to assess a possible aid measure as a matter of urgency. The CMA invites comments on the draft guidance by midnight on 18 March 2019.

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Committee expresses concerns to Home Secretary about EU Settlement Scheme

In a letter to the Home Secretary, the EU Justice Sub-Committee has raised concerns about the EU Settlement Scheme which, despite several major issues, is now in the process of being rolled out. The principle concerns include: (1) Publicity for the scheme has so far been inadequate and ill-judged. As a result, vulnerable and harder-to-reach people are at risk of not knowing that they need to apply for settled status; (2) The application process is not accessible to all; (3) Having no physical proof of status will not only disadvantage those without access to online technology, but would also leave all EU nationals in limbo in the event of a breakdown of the electronic system; and (4) There is no systematic scheme to move people from pre-settled status to settled status.

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Agreement secures £1.3 trillion market for British contractors

On 27 February 2019, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) members confirmed that the UK will join the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) as an independent member if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement. The GPA is an agreement within the WTO framework between its 19 members, including major economies such as the United States, Canada, the EU and Japan. Overseas businesses will be able to bid for £67 billion worth of public sector contracts in the UK every year. In return, British suppliers will be able to bid for £1.3 trillion worth of Government contracts overseas in a wide range of sectors from large infrastructure to professional and business services.

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Government issues guidance on the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the E-Commerce Directive (the Directive)

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has issued guidance on the likely impact of a no-deal Brexit on the Directive and how online businesses should prepare. The guidance explains that, following a no-deal Brexit, the UK’s policy will be to align with the provisions in the Directive, including those on the liability of intermediary service providers and general monitoring. However, information society services (ISS), certain elements of which the Directive regulates, will cease to benefit from this when operating in EEA member states. Accordingly, there will be a transitional period for ISS in financial services. Businesses in the UK and the EEA are therefore advised to check for any compliance issues resulting from the loss of the country of origin principle.

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We have created a Brexit checklist to assist businesses with the various challenges and opportunities presented by Brexit. Please click here to view.

If you have any questions about any of the issues which are raised, or would like to discuss your own organisation’s options in the lead-up to Brexit, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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