Key developments in April included the European Council’s adoption of EU negotiating guidelines for Brexit and the publication of a report by the House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee on the UK government’s negotiating objectives.
European Council adopts EU negotiating guidelines
A Special European Council, meeting as 27 member states, adopted the Article 50 guidelines to formally define the EU’s position for the Brexit negotiations with the UK on 29 April 2017.
The guidelines are set out under six headings that cover core principles, a phased approach to the negotiations, agreement on arrangements for an orderly withdrawal, preliminary and preparatory discussions on a framework for the EU-UK future relationship, the principle of sincere co-operation, and the procedural arrangements for negotiations under Article 50.
Prior to the summit, the General Affairs Council, in an EU-27 format, had agreed on the draft Article 50 guidelines for the Brexit negotiations with the UK. The Council is expected to authorise the opening of the negotiations, nominate the European Commission as the EU negotiator, and adopt the negotiating directives on 22 May 2017.
Earlier in the month, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on negotiations with the UK. According to the Resolution, the future withdrawal agreement should address, among other things:
- The legal status and rights of EU-27 citizens living or having lived in the UK, and of UK citizens living or having lived in other EU member states.
- The settlement of financial obligations between the UK and the EU.
- The EU’s external border.
The Resolution also sets out the European Parliament’s principles for its assessment of the negotiation process, approval of the resulting withdrawal agreement, and assessment of any agreement on the future relationship between the EU and the UK.
Parliamentary committee publishes report on Brexit White Paper and the government’s negotiating objectives
At the beginning of April, the House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee published a report on the government’s Brexit White Paper. The report looks in detail at each of the 12 priorities that the government will use to negotiate the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and its future partnership.
The Committee’s recommendations and conclusions include the following requirements:
- More clarity about the features of the government’s preferred customs arrangement with the EU and how it will differ from a customs union.
- A thorough assessment of the economic, legal and other implications of leaving the EU at the end of the Article 50 process with no deal, which the government should publish.
- Parliament to have a vote in the event that there is no deal.
Legislating for Brexit
Two reports on addressing EU legislation during and after Brexit were published in April:
- The House of Commons Library published a research briefing looking at what will happen to EU Directives after Brexit. This paper gives some idea of the task ahead for UK legislators and provides a useful list of EU Directives in force, linking them to implementing measures in the UK.
- The House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee published a report on the system by which the House of Commons scrutinises EU legislation and how it may need to adapt in light of the Brexit vote and withdrawal negotiations.
Human rights, business and Brexit
In early April, a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights published a report on human rights and business, which looks at the specific business-related human rights that might be affected by Brexit, including its effect on workers’ rights and the concerns expressed after the referendum vote about the increased vulnerability of EU nationals working in the UK.
The report also looks at human rights clauses in EU trade agreements. The Joint Committee encourages the government to use the opportunity of Brexit to set higher human rights standards in future trade agreements.
Implications for UK competition law and policy
The Brexit Competition Law Working Group published its provisional conclusions and recommendations on the implications of Brexit for UK competition law and policy in mid-April. Although it does not believe that Brexit gives cause for radical reform of the principal UK competition statutes, or of the role of the competition authorities, primary legislation will require amendment. In particular, it recommends that the duty in section 60 of the Competition Act 1998 for the UK authorities and courts to act consistently with EU jurisprudence becomes simply a duty to “have regard to” that jurisprudence.
New LMA EU contract continuity clause published
On 20 April 2017, the Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA) published a new model EU contract continuity clause relating to Brexit. The LMA explains that the clause provides that contracts will continue unless there is an urgent need to terminate a contract for licensing or other regulatory reason following Brexit, other EU member exit or Eurozone break-up.