BREXIT COUNTDOWN: 365 days remain to crystallize the implementation period

Jacqui Bickerton considers whether the agreement for an implementation period between the UK and European Union (“EU”) will be successfully achieved.

Back in January 2017, during her Lancaster House speech the Prime Minister Theresa May referred to the UK’s desire to agree an implementation period to take effect post-Brexit.

David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, and EU negotiator, Michel Barnier announced in March 2018 that the conditional implementation period had, in principle, been agreed between the UK and EU. It is anticipated that the implementation period will commence on 29 March 2019, end on 31 December 2020 and be entirely conditional upon agreement being reached on a final withdrawal treaty. This, at first glance, appears to be a positive step for UK insurers and business alike, as the implementation period will maintain the status quo for a limited time post-Brexit and afford a precise time frame for future planning. For insurers, it serves as a bit of a “buffer” period within which to collect premiums and service policies.

As is well known, the EU Withdrawal Bill (“the EU Bill”) will introduce a meaningful vote for Parliament on the final Brexit deal. However, whilst the EU Bill is currently making its way through the parliamentary process, the Government announced on 13 November 2017 its intention to introduce the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill (“the Implementation Bill”) as the vehicle to give effect to the Article 50 withdrawal agreement. This will also include the implementation period.
Two questions immediately spring to mind:

  • What if the UK Government makes amendments to the Implementation Bill which the EU is unable to accept?
  • Where will the UK be if the Implementation Bill does not complete the parliamentary process and receive Royal Assent?

The answer – the UK will have neither parliamentary approval of the final deal nor domestic legislation ratifying the withdrawal agreement with the EU. Theresa May’s Government will not then be able to agree to the withdrawal treaty with the EU. Suddenly, the threat of a ‘cliff edge’ Brexit is reignited. Contingency planning for all eventualities must continue in earnest.

Jacqui Bickerton is Associate and Professional Support Lawyer based in the Knowledge Management team at national law firm Weightmans LLP

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