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Brexit round-up – 17/04/20

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.

House of Lords Library publishes article on coronavirus implications for transition period

The House of Lords Library has published an article entitled Coronavirus: What does it mean for the Brexit transition period? The article is in two parts and the first part examines how the focus of governments on Covid-19 has affected the progress of negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship and the implementation of the withdrawal agreement. It notes that informal discussions on the future relationship are ongoing, but it has not been possible to continue the negotiations by video-conferencing because of the number of participants involved and security concerns about the technology and that it is not clear how the talks will progress over future weeks. It notes that there have been many calls (including from the Scottish and Welsh Governments) for the transition period to be extended however the deadline for agreeing an extension is 30 June and the Government has maintained that it will not ask for or agree to an extension. The second part of the article looks at how the UK is affected during the transition period by the EU’s response to Covid-19, what is happening with the UK’s plans to negotiate trade deals with non-EU countries, and what this means for Parliament. It notes that the UK is still subject to most EU rules, including EU rules on state aid, during the transition period and that the European Commission has approved three UK state aid schemes under the temporary framework on state aid, which were adopted on 19 March 2020 in response to Covid-19. However, the UK can no longer take part in the EU’s decision-making and legislative processes in the same way as EU member states. It also notes that the Trade Justice Movement (a UK coalition of nearly 60 civil society organisations) wrote to the Government in late March 2020 asking it to delay the start of trade negotiations with the US. It also notes that there is no statutory role for Parliament in deciding whether there should be an extension to the transition period. If an extension were to happen then further legislation would be needed to remove the statutory ban on UK ministers agreeing to it.

For more information please click here.

House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee publishes report on coronavirus implications on Brexit

The House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee has published a report which summarises the EU’s policy and legal measures adopted in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and assesses their implications for the UK in light of Brexit. The Committee expects the Government to explain which of the EU’s policy measures adopted in response to coronavirus are applicable to, or will be applied by, the UK, and to provide an assessment of their expected impact on the UK. For example, under the UK-EU withdrawal agreement, the UK remains eligible to be awarded EU funds until the end of 2020 and it is noted that the EU are accelerating the release of €29 billion of direct financial support from the EU’s structural funds to help affected countries and businesses. The report notes that the current crisis has highlighted difficulties with the post-Brexit transitional arrangements, which give the UK no formal say in shaping new EU law. Important policy decisions that affect the UK directly, such as the European Commission’s new temporary framework for state aid measures, are being made in Brussels at speed, but without formal UK input. The report also notes the Government’s approach to co-operation with the EU in emergency situations after the end of the transition period under the future UK-EU relationship, and in particular its apparent decision not to seek UK involvement in EU systems deployed during the pandemic, such as the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism, or its Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) for pandemics. The Committee asks the Government to explain whether the Government was sighted of the draft temporary framework for state aid measures when it was circulated to the EU member states, and to clarify whether its views were taken in account when the temporary framework was finalised and also to provide an update on its assessment of the costs and benefits with respect to continued UK participation in the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism and EWRS after the end of the transition period, and to clarify what form of formalised co-operation it is seeking with the EU on health security more generally.

For more information please click here.

If you have any questions about any of the issues which are raised, or would like to discuss your own organisation’s options during the Brexit process, 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.

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