The European Council’s conclusion that sufficient progress had not yet been achieved in Brexit negotiations on withdrawal matters to move on to discussing the framework for the future relationship and transitional arrangements was the most significant development in October.
Progress of Brexit negotiations
On 20 October, the European Council concluded that sufficient progress had not yet been achieved in Brexit negotiations on withdrawal matters (phase one) to move on to discussing the framework for the future relationship and transitional arrangements (phase two). The European Council said it would reassess the situation at its next meeting on 14-15 December, but meanwhile invited the Council of the European Union (Council) and European Commission to start internal preparatory discussions for phase two.
At the beginning of the month, the European Parliament (EP) had adopted a non-legislative Resolution on the state of play of the Brexit negotiations with the UK. The Resolution noted that the EP did not believe that sufficient progress had yet been made on the three key issues of citizens’ rights, the UK’s financial settlement, and the Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland border.
The fifth round of Article 50 negotiations between the UK and the EU actually took place over three days on 9, 10 and 12 October and followed a similar negotiating structure to the previous round. The European Commission and the UK government subsequently announced that the next round of Brexit talks will be held on 9-10 November.
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Towards the end of October, the government announced that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill would enter Committee Stage on 14 November and debate would continue on 15 November. It had been expected that this would occur earlier in October.
Practical Law has published three flowcharts that provide guidance on the identification of legislation, rights and obligations affected by the Bill, and their projected status after the UK withdraws from the EU.
International trade following Brexit
At the end of October, the House of Commons International Trade Committee launched an inquiry into how the UK can replicate the rights it currently has under EU trade agreements after Brexit. The EU is party to 36 regional or bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs), covering more than 60 countries. The UK has stated that it intends to maintain the current position by replicating the rights that the UK presently enjoys under these FTAs.
The day before that inquiry was launched, the government responded to the House of Lords European Union Committee report on Brexit and trade in goods. Although the government’s response contained little new information, the annex to its response listed the 58 sectors on which the government has conducted Brexit impact assessments. These sectors included food and drink manufacturing; business services; gas market; insurance and pensions; life sciences; professional services; retail and corporate banking; telecommunications; and wholesale markets and investment banking.
Earlier in the month, the Department for International Trade published a white paper setting out the government’s approach to a future UK trade policy as the UK exits the EU. The government intends to introduce a trade bill in the current parliamentary session, and is seeking views on all aspects of its approach to UK trade policy through this white paper. The government is also expected to publish a Customs Bill, which will delegate wide-ranging powers to the government to establish a workable customs regime, in late autumn.
Data protection developments
The Data Protection Bill second reading debate took place in the House of Lords on 10 October 2017. Members debated the Bill’s key points and issues around EU-UK data flows in light of Brexit. Prior to the Bill’s second reading, the House of Lords Library published a briefing that examined the Bill’s background, provided an overview of the Bill, and looked at reactions to it. Line by line examination of the Bill took place during the first day of the Committee stage in the House of Lords committee stage on 30 October.
Towards the end of the month, the government responded to the report on Brexit: the EU data protection package and committed itself to ensuring that the UK remains “a global leader on data protection” after Brexit. Among other things, the government set out its requirements for a future UK-EU partnership, including maintaining a free flow of data, ongoing regulatory cooperation between the EU and the UK on current data protection issues, respect for UK sovereignty, and avoiding unnecessary additional costs on business.
UK competition policy after Brexit
The House of Lords EU Internal Market Sub-Committee continued its inquiry on the impact of Brexit on UK competition policy in October. The inquiry is examining the opportunities and challenges of leaving the EU for antitrust rules, merger control and state aid, as well as considering the potential future relationship between UK and EU competition authorities. The committee published uncorrected transcripts of meetings to gather evidence in the inquiry from 12 October and 19 October.