What’s on the agenda for in-house lawyers in February 2020?

The UK will leave the EU at 11pm (UK time) on 31 January 2020. Brexit planning will remain at the top of the agenda for in-house lawyers in February, and for the remainder of the year, as they prepare for the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.


On 23 January 2020, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 2019-20 received Royal Assent, becoming the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 (WAA). Now that Parliament has passed the WAA, the government can proceed to ratify the withdrawal agreement, and the UK will leave the EU at 11pm (UK time) on 31 January 2020 (exit day).

Under the withdrawal agreement, a post-Brexit transition period will run from exit day until 31 December 2020, during which time the UK will be treated for most purposes as if it were still an EU member state, and most EU law will continue to apply to the UK. As many aspects of a no-deal scenario would again arise if relevant future relationship agreements are not in force by the end of the transition period, no-deal planning should remain on the agenda as the timetable for agreeing a deal is short and consequently a comprehensive trade deal is unlikely. Some issues (such as fisheries) may be agreed, while others (such as services) may not be and would therefore fall under World Trade Organization terms.

For further information, see:

Climate change

Climate change was the main focus of the 2020 World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting at Davos, Switzerland, which ran from 21 to 24 January 2020. Key announcements and initiatives include:

  • The WEF’s Global Risk Report 2020 identified climate change risk and biodiversity loss as among the most important global risks, for the first time.
  • Price Waterhouse Cooper’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey found that two-thirds of CEOs identified climate change as a risk to their business. However, many CEOs, including in the UK, also agreed that climate change initiatives will lead to significant new product and service opportunities.
  • The WEF called for all companies attending the Davos meeting to set a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Mark Carney, the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England, has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s finance adviser for the 2020 UN climate change conference (COP26). His appointment is noteworthy as he has been an important figure in highlighting climate-related financial risks and was instrumental in publishing the TCFD recommendations on reporting on climate-related financial risks.

Practical Law has published a video that provides a short introduction to climate change for in-house lawyers. It summarises:

  • How climate change affects companies and relates to the work of in-house lawyers.
  • How in-house lawyers are uniquely placed to advise on climate change risks and how it fits their role.
  • A simple risk mitigation action that can be taken quickly and easily.

Cyber security

The Information Commissioner’s Office has fined DSG Retail Limited £500,000 under the Data Protection Act 1998 for a cyber-breach relating to a ‘point of sale’ (POS) computer system. About 5.6 million payment card details and at least 14 million customers’ personal data were accessed by a cyber attacker who installed malware on 5,390 POS terminals at DSG’s Currys PC World and Dixons Travel stores.

Guidance has been published by the National Cyber Security Centre to help organisations:

  • With a range of issues related to mobile devices, including advising end users on cyber security issues. While aimed primarily at business users, the guidance may be useful for lawyers or risk managers tasked with ensuring compliance with GDPR and other cyber-related legislation.
  • Assess the security of voice, video and messaging communication services. The guidance has been released in draft for feedback and is aimed at risk managers and security professionals who are tasked with selecting communication technologies for their organisations.

Corporate governance and reporting

On 9 January 2019, the FRC published its Annual Review of the UK Corporate Governance Code. The Review assesses reporting against the 2016 UK Corporate Governance Code as well as in relation to early adoption of the 2018 UK Corporate Governance Code (against which all premium listed companies will report for 2020).

The FRC’s Financial Reporting Lab has published a report on workforce-related corporate reporting. The report concludes that improvements are needed to meet investor needs and reflect modern-day workforces. It finds overwhelming investor support for clearer and more detailed disclosures and an increasing desire among other stakeholders for reporting in areas such as:

  • Culture.
  • Employee engagement.
  • The workforce.

Age Appropriate Design Code

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published the final version of its Age Appropriate Design Code. The code sets out 15 standards that online services should meet to protect children’s privacy. It applies to those responsible for designing, developing or providing online services and requires the best interests of the child to be a primary consideration.

The ICO submitted the code to the Secretary of State in November 2019 and the government needs to notify the European Commission of the code and observe a three-month standstill period before it is laid before Parliament for 40 sitting days. It will come into force 21 days after that and will have a transition period of 12 months.

Direct marketing code of practice

The ICO has launched a consultation on its draft direct marketing code of practice. The consultation is open until 4 March 2020.

Dates for your diary

1 February 2020

6 February 2020

FCA consultation on a proposal to amend the Listing Rules to require the disclosure of rights attached to securities closes.

12 February 2020

14 February 2020

Deadline for WIPO’s call for comments on its paper on AI on intellectual property policy.

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