Sunday, 3 January 2021

Brexit Briefing December 2020

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Much to the surprise of many commentators, the UK concluded a Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the European Union on Christmas eve to govern the parties' future relationship from 31 Dec 2020. I discussed it in outline in The Draft EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement: What We Know So Far on 26 Dec 2020. It was a great deal better than nothing but it would not have satisfied anybody who might have been hoping for a licence to undercut manufacturers and farmers on the Continent by abandoning EU product safety, environmental and employment safeguards. Her Majesty's government is, of course, free to do any of those things but if it does it will face tariffs or other countermeasures from the EU.  A lot of people in the UK from fishermen to financial services providers have expressed dismay at the deal.

The agreement required primary legislation for implementation and the 40 clause European Union (Future Relationship) Bill with its 6 schedules amounting to 80 pages cleared all its parliamentary stages in a single day.  The other important piece of primary legislation was the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020.  The provisions to which the EU and parliamentarians of all parties objected which I mentioned in The United Kingdom Internal Market Bill 19 Sept 2020 were dropped.

So now the legislative framework is in place in international and national law.  The terms of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union are set out in the Withdrawal Agreement (Agreement on the withdrawal of theUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Nothern Ireland from the European Union and the European AtomicEnergy Community).   The provisions relating to the transition or implementation period lapsed at 23:00 on 31 Dec 2020 but the others remain in force.

These include the continued legal protection of intellectual assets that were protected by EU law such as registered Community designs and EU trade mark by UK intellectual property rights.  The Withdrawal Agreement was ratified and implemented by the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 though the legislation amending the Registered Designs Act 1949, the Patents Act 1977, Thw. Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Trade Marks Act 1994 had already been made in anticipation of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU without agreement. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement contained a number of provisions relating to intellectual property which I discussed in The IP Provisions of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement on 30 Dec 2020 but these will not require legislation in the immediate future.

New provisions for the resolution of disputes between the UK and the EU over the interpretation and application of the Withdrawal Agreement came into force at 23:00 on 31 Dec 2020 which I discussed in Dispute Resolution under the Withdrawal Agreement  31 Dec 2020.  Some matters will be reserved to the Court of Justice of the European Union notwithstanding the UK's departure from the EU but most will be resolved through consultation and cooperations with arbitration as a last resort.

Finally, the Department for International Trade has reported trade agreements with Canada, Keneffeya, Singapore, Turkey and Vietnam which appear to roll over agreements that those countries have made with the EU in December.

Anyone wishing to discuss this article or the UK's new trading environment generally should call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact page.

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