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Brexit round-up – 18/09/20

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.

UK Internal Market Bill reaches House of Commons Committee stage

On 14 September 2020, the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill (Bill) had its second reading in the House of Commons, and has now entered the House of Commons Committee stage. The House voted in favour of the second reading by 340 votes to 263. The Committee stage is scheduled for Tuesday 15, Wednesday 16, Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 September 2020.  The Bill seeks to prevent the emergence of regulatory divergence and barriers to trade within the UK domestic market when the powers to regulate trade between the four UK home nations that are currently exercised at an EU level flow back to the UK government and the devolved administrations on 1 January 2021.

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European Commission warns UK over breaking withdrawal agreement

On 10 September 2020, the European Commission issued a statement calling on the UK government to withdraw parts of its Internal Market Bill that would breach the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland (Protocol) in the EU-UK withdrawal agreement “in the shortest time possible and in any case by the end of the month.”  The Protocol includes provisions, particularly on state aid, that will continue to restrict how the UK and the EU can regulate trade in Northern Ireland after the end of the transition period.  Following the publication of the draft Bill, Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič called for an extraordinary meeting of the joint UK-EU committee, which was held on 10 September 2020. Following the meeting, the Commission issued a statement saying that if the Bill were to be adopted as proposed, it would be in clear breach of the Protocol’s substantive provisions on customs legislation and state aid and would also violate the good faith obligation in Article 5.  It called on the UK to withdraw these measures from the draft Bill and stating that, by putting forward this Bill, the UK has seriously damaged trust between the EU and the UK and put at risk the ongoing future relationship negotiations.  The EU reminded the UK government that the withdrawal agreement contains a number of mechanisms and legal remedies to address violations, “which the European Union will not be shy in using.”

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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.

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