On 29 March 2019, the House of Commons voted against a government motion for the approval of the withdrawal agreement (but not the political declaration). This means that the UK is now due to leave the EU on 12 April 2019 without a deal. No-deal Brexit planning guidance continued to be published throughout March.
Brexit day delayed
On 29 March 2019, the House of Commons voted against a government motion for the approval of the withdrawal agreement (but not the political declaration). This means that the UK is now due to leave the EU on 12 April 2019 without a deal, under the European Council’s terms for extending the Article 50 period, unless a further extension is agreed or the Article 50 notice is revoked.
The result of the Commons vote gives fresh impetus to the indicative voting process, which gained support due to the risk of leaving without a deal on 12 April 2019. The strongest contenders from the votes were:
- A customs union.
- Confirmatory public vote.
- Labour’s alternative plan (which includes a permanent customs union and close alignment with the single market).
In response to the Commons vote against the government motion, European Council President Donald Tusk announced that there will be a special European Council meeting on 10 April 2019. The European Council had previously agreed to the UK’s request for an extension based on conditions:
- If the withdrawal agreement is approved by the Commons in the week commencing 25 March 2019, the Article 50 period will be extended until 22 May 2019.
- If the withdrawal agreement is not approved during that week, the Article 50 period will only be extended until 12 April 2019. In that case, the European Council expects the UK to indicate a way forward before this date.
The Prime Minister had originally requested an extension to the Article 50 period until 30 June 2019.
No-deal Brexit planning
No-deal planning guidance continued to be published in March.
On 1 March 2019, the government published a document setting out the changes to trade mark law that will be made in the event of a no-deal Brexit. WIPO has also published an explanatory document on the effect of no-deal Brexit on the UK rights of holders of international trade marks that designate the EU.
On 4 March 2019, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published draft procedural guidance setting out general information on the processes the CMA proposes to use, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, when examining and investigating notified aid measures under the proposed State Aid (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. The CMA also published the final version of guidance on the effects of no-deal on the functions of the CMA. The European Commission published its guidance on the main implications of a no-deal scenario on competition enforcement and merger control on 25 March 2019.
The London Stock Exchange published its proposed changes to its Primary Markets Rulebooks if no transitional or other agreement is reached before the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 7 March 2019.
HMRC published guidance on interest, royalties and dividends passing between the UK and EU member states if there is a no-deal Brexit on 20 March 2019. On the same day the FCA published a Primary Market Bulletin summarising key changes to the Listing Rules, Disclosure Guidance and Transparency Rules, and Prospectus Rules that will apply from exit day in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Free trade agreements post-Brexit
The Department for International Trade (DIT) has published its proposals on how free trade agreements will be made after the UK has left the EU. The agreements in scope are “future trade agreements”, such as the new ones proposed with Australia, New Zealand and the US. The paper notes that these will be the UK’s first independent trade negotiations for more than 40 years.
The DIT has also established a temporary Trade Remedies Investigations Directorate that will investigate whether to impose and maintain trade remedies in the UK after the UK leaves the EU, pending establishment of the Trade Remedies Authority under the Trade Bill. The Trade Bill passed its final House of Lords stages on 20 March 2019.
Brexit statutory instruments
Brexit statutory instruments (SIs) continued to be published throughout the month. You can keep up to date with the increased volume of Brexit SIs by visiting our Brexit statutory instruments tracker.