Key developments in February included publication of the White Paper setting out what the UK government seeks to achieve in negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU and the progress of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2017 through Parliament.
Brexit White Paper published
At the beginning of February, the Department for Exiting the European Union published a White Paper setting out what the UK government seeks to achieve in negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU and the UK’s new partnership with the EU.
The White Paper reiterated many of the points made by Theresa May in a speech on 17 January, which set out 12 priorities that the UK government will use to negotiate Brexit. It covers a wide range of legal areas, including commercial law, crime, financial services, employment, environmental law, immigration and international trade, but provides little new detail.
Triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union
The government has stated that Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union will be triggered by the end of March. This note examines the withdrawal process under Article 50 and outlines the potential scope and content of negotiations and agreements between the UK and the EU.
On 17 February, EU law experts Sir David Edward, Sir Francis Jacobs and Sir Jeremy Lever provided a legal opinion on the constitutional role of Parliament in future decision-making on Brexit. It considers the UK’s constitutional requirements for withdrawing from the EU under Article 50 and whether an Article 50 notice can be unilaterally revoked if those constitutional requirements are not met.
On the same day, the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper on Parliament’s role in ratifying treaties. The paper provides background information on the process by which international treaties are ratified, explaining that the government must lay most treaties before Parliament for 21 sitting days before it can ratify them, and the House of Commons can block ratification indefinitely.
Progress of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2017
The House of Lords Library published a briefing paper on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2017 on 20 February. It summarises the debates that took place on the Bill in the House of Commons, after which the Bill was not amended.
The Bill is currently at the Committee stage in the House of Lords.
Drafting for Brexit: Brexit clauses
Given the uncertainties around when and how Brexit will happen and its impact, no Brexit clause can be a “silver bullet”. Some commentators feel that they are little more than an “agreement to agree” and query the merit of including one. Others see value in providing contracting parties with a framework for discussions that may lead to them finding a resolution to Brexit problems.
Practical Law Commercial has published a note that explores the key issues to consider when drafting a clause to deal with the impact Brexit-related events may have on the business-to-business supply of goods or services. A long form and a short form specimen clause providing for renegotiation or termination on certain trigger events are included for consideration.
Practical Law is interested to hear views on the note and the clauses. Please send any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. A selection or summary of comments received may be published. Please let us know if you would like your comments to be published anonymously.
If you would like to participate in our research on how organisations are responding to Brexit more generally, please register your interest by emailing email@example.com.
Civil justice cooperation and Brexit
As part of its inquiry on civil justice cooperation and Brexit, the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee published evidence given by Sir Oliver Heald MP, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, on Brexit and civil justice cooperation. His evidence focused on various issues, including the importance of mutual recognition of choices of law, courts and enforcement of judgments, and the extent to which EU law will be imported into UK law by the Great Repeal Bill.
The Sub-Committee also published written evidence from Adrian Briggs QC on secession from the European Union and private international law. His evidence highlighted the main issues surrounding the government’s intention to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and the resultant effect of current regulations no longer being enforceable.
Future of the UK legal sector post-Brexit
On 6 February, the House of Commons Justice Committee published published a transcript of evidence from leading organisations and professional bodies, on the future of the legal sector post-Brexit. These included Andrew Langdon QC, Chair of the Bar Council, Simon Gleeson, partner at Clifford Chance, Alison Hook, co-founder of Hook Tangaza and the President of the Law Society, Robert Bourns.
Detailed coverage of Brexit, including how it may impact different industry sectors, can be found on the Brexit homepage.