Several Brexit-related Bills continued their passage through Parliament during January, including the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19, the Trade Bill 2017-2019 and the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill. Near the end of the month, the General Council (Article 50) adopted a Council Decision and supplementary negotiating directives for the Brexit negotiations, which set out the EU 27’s negotiating position on a transition period.
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 received its first reading in the House of Lords on 18 January. The Bill is intended to provide the legislative framework and preparation for the UK’s scheduled withdrawal from the EU on 29 March 2019. On 29 January 2018, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution issued a report on the Bill, which found that it was “constitutionally unacceptable” and made recommendations to overcome the committee’s concerns. The Bill’s second reading in the House of Lords concluded on 31 January and it is scheduled to enter the House of Lords Committee Stage on 21 February.
Trade Bill 2017-2019
On 9 January, the Trade Bill 2017-2019 received its second reading in the House of Commons. The Bill was then committed to a Public Bill Committee, whose proceedings concluded on 1 February. The Bill forms part of the government’s wider commitment to seek continuity after Brexit for the UK’s current trade and investment relationships, including those covered by EU free trade agreements with other countries and other EU preferential arrangements.
Near the beginning of January, the Department for International Trade published the government’s response to the trade white paper. It summarised feedback received on the paper, and set out the government’s response and the follow-up actions the government will take as a result.
Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill 2017-19
The Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill 2017-19 passed its second reading in the House of Commons on 10 January. The Bill was then considered in a Public Bill Committee, which completed its work on 1 February 2018. The Bill provides for the imposition and regulation of UK customs duties and amendments to VAT and excise duties law in preparation for the UK’s exit from the EU.
Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill
On 15 January, the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill reached the report stage. The purpose of the Bill is to provide the UK with the necessary legal powers to continue to implement sanctions post-Brexit, including the maintaining of existing sanctions and regimes currently imposed through EU law, and providing the necessary legal underpinning for the UK to decide when and how to take action against new threats. The Bill had its third reading in the House of Lords on 24 January and was then sent to the House of Commons for consideration.
Brexit negotiations: Council adopts Decision and supplementary negotiating directives
On 29 January, the General Council (Article 50) adopted a Council Decision and supplementary negotiating directives for the Brexit negotiations, which set out the EU27’s negotiating position on a transition period. The supplementary directives set the European Commission’s mandate for the negotiations on transitional arrangements. The European Council is expected to adopt new negotiating guidelines at its meeting on 22-23 March 2018.
A few days earlier, three cabinet ministers jointly wrote an open letter to business leaders setting out the government’s aims for an implementation period after the UK leaves the EU. The letter adds that the UK and the EU want to agree the detail of the implementation period by the end of March 2018, and will then finalise the text of the withdrawal agreement.
Brexit: sector-specific developments
Towards the end of the month, the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee published a report on the potential impact of Brexit on creative industries, tourism and the digital single market. The report provides a useful and timely insight into the key concerns that a range of stakeholders in the creative industries (from museums, galleries and the fashion industry to communications providers and broadcasters) have about Brexit. It provides a helpful aide-memoire, ahead of detailed Brexit negotiations, of the pain points of stakeholders in these sectors, and of key actions, as identified by the Committee in the light of the evidence, to address them.
In the same week, the European Commission published a notice setting out the consequences of Brexit for “economic operators” (manufacturers, importers, distributors and authorised representatives) who place non-food and non-agricultural products on the EU market. The Commission also published guidance setting out the consequences of Brexit for organisations involved in shipping goods requiring import/export licences within the EU. Examples of the goods for which import/export licences are required include waste, hazardous chemicals, ozone-depleting substances, drug precursors, genetically-modified organisms, cultural goods and dual use goods (such as goods, software and technology that can be used for both civilian and military applications).