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Brexit round-up – 25/10/19

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.

EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill introduced

Following an agreement between the UK and the EU, the Government has now introduced the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (WAB) which is required to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement (Agreement), a draft international treaty and to implement the Agreement under domestic law. This Bill ensures that the United Kingdom is able to fulfil its international obligations, and leave the European Union with a deal.

The Bill now needs to be approved by Parliament in order to turn the Agreement into legislation.  This will be required in order to deliver Brexit, with a deal, on October 31 as promised by the Prime Minister.

On Tuesday 22 October the Bill passed its Second Reading with a majority vote but the Government then lost a critical vote over the timetable of the Bill and the Programme Motion was not passed. The Bill is therefore currently awaiting a decision on future consideration.  Meeting the 31 October deadline is now difficult, such an important piece of legislation would usually require weeks of scrutiny, although just how long is required is the subject of some debate as much of the agreement has been reviewed under Theresa May’s deal.

Boris Johnson has sent a letter requesting an extension from the EU (as required under the Benn Act) which the EU is currently considering.  If an extension is not granted and the Government fails to get the Bill passed then the UK will leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

The Bill covers all agreed aspects of the UK’s departure from the EU.  This includes ending annual payments to Brussels but setting out exactly how the UK will make “divorce bill” payments for years to come.  It repeals the European Communities Act, which took the UK into the EU, but then reinstates it immediately for as long as a post-Brexit transition period lasts.  It contains details on how a new protocol on Ireland – setting up a customs and regulatory border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain – will work in practice. An accompanying impact assessment lays out some of the costs and bureaucracy that companies doing business in Northern Ireland will face.  It sets out areas in which the European Court of Justice still plays a role in the UK, and makes the Withdrawal Agreement in some respects “supreme” over other areas of UK law.  It suggests that if the Government doesn’t ask for an extension of the transition period beyond the end of 2020, Parliament won’t have a say in changing that, even if a free trade deal isn’t ready in time.  It will protect the integrity of the UK as it leaves the EU, without the need for the backstop whilst also protecting the rights of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens under UK law, so that they can continue to live, study and work in the UK.  It also sets up an independent monitoring authority with which EU nationals in the UK can lodge any complaints about the way the Government treats them.  It will also secure an implementation period to give businesses continuity and greater certainty as they prepare for the change in relationship we will have with the EU.

For more information please click here.

Court of Session delays decision

The Court of Session has delayed its decision following an application on whether the Prime Minister has fully complied with a law requiring him to ask for a Brexit extension.  Boris Johnson sent an unsigned letter to Brussels asking for a delay, along with a signed letter saying he believed that doing so would be a mistake which, the applicant’s lawyer, Aidan O’Neill QC, described as “unusual.”  The UK Government argued that this fulfilled its legal obligations under the Benn Act. David Johnston QC, representing the UK Government, argued that the appeal should be dismissed as the letter had been sent.  The Court of Session have refused to dismiss the action and have continued the hearing to a later date with Lord Carloway saying the case should be continued until it was clear that the obligations under the legislation had been “complied with in full.”

For more information please click here.

Commons Speaker refuses MP vote

Following MPs voting on Saturday to withhold approval of the Brexit deal until it was passed into law, Commons speaker, John Bercow refused a request from the Government to hold a “yes” or “no” vote on the Brexit deal as to do so would be “repetitive and disorderly.”  MPs chose to withhold approval and back an amendment tabled by Sir Oliver Letwin, which said that could not happen until all necessary Brexit legislation was passed.  The Withdrawal Agreement Bill will have to go through full Parliamentary scrutiny in the Commons and the Lords before it is passed.

For more information please click here.

Boris Johnson calls for general election if Brexit extension is granted

Boris Johnson “paused” the Brexit Bill this week after MPs rejected his plan to fast track it through Parliament in three days. He has been forced to send a letter to the EU requesting a three month extension to the Brexit deadline.  No.10 has now said that he will push for a general election if the EU agrees to delay Brexit by the three month extension until January, however he would need the backing of Parliament and opposition MPs have previously ruled out holding a general election until after the 31 October deadline and a no-deal Brexit was ruled out altogether.  The EU will now consider the request and whether to grant the delay and also what length the extension should be if granted at all.

For more information please click here.

Scottish and Welsh First Ministers back general election

Following their opposition of Boris Johnson’s fast track Brexit plans, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford have both said they would back a general election, but they would first need to see the details of any Brexit extension to ensure that there is no risk of a no-deal Brexit.  They agreed that there needed to be adequate time to scrutinise the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.  Nicola Sturgeon said “I want to see a general election. I would be very happy to see that general election before Christmas but the circumstances of that have to be such that it doesn’t open the risk of a no-deal Brexit.  And I think all responsible opposition MPs who want to see an election have a duty to make sure that that is the case.”

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 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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