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Brexit in a page - what do I need to know? | 13 February 2020

Brexit expert Jacqui Bickerton summarises all you need to know about Brexit

Weekly reflection

Key dates

March 2020 Trade deal negotiations to commence

June 2020 Final date for the UK to request an extension to the transition period

June 2020 EU Summit to assess the progress of talks

26 November 2020 End date for the trade deal to be finalised

31 December 2020 End of the transition period

  • Onwards and upwards to the trade negotiations has been the mantra of the UK government, supported further by Boris Johnson’s announcement that he will be seeking a deal similar to the EU-Canada trade agreement and, in the absence of that, trade would fall to the WTO rules. He has further stated that there is no need for the UK to follow EU trade rules. However, the EU’s Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, has warned the UK that it must be prepared to accept a level playing field on rules and standards and that Boris Johnson’s intentions on trade was “music to the ears” of the EU.
  • The Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, Sir John Cunliffe, has issued a warning to the EU that close ties with the UK’s financial markets are essential for the EU’s continued participation in the global pools of capital and liquidity. Specifically, he said “The EU has, in my view, more to gain than lose from access to the markets, expertise and concentration of financial activity in London – from partnership rather than rivalry with the global financial centre on its doorstep”.
  • Meanwhile, the UK government now appear to be addressing the financial services market with the suggestion of a permanent equivalence deal with the EU. This has received a mixed reaction from across the sector, with insurers still reluctant to accept that an equivalence regime would suffice. This is supported by Mark Carney, the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England who believes such a regime would tie the UK’s hands and would not be at all desirable.
  • The Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) in its much anticipated report has concluded that a points-based system for immigration to the UK post 1 January 2021 would be “cosmetic” and “pointless” except for the most highly skilled migrants. MAC urged the UK government not to repeat earlier mistakes of introducing a points-based system which, previously, had been proved to be ineffective and overly complex. However, Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, have confirmed that they are intending to press ahead with a points-based system similar to that in operation in Australia. The new immigration regime is expected to be approved by the Cabinet this week. Read our latest update on Post-Brexit immigration here.
  • Official figures released by the Office for National Statistics (“ONS”) have revealed that the UK economy slowed to almost a halt in the fourth quarter of 2019. The out-going Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney said “…overall UK activity likely stagnated in the final quarter of 2019…”. The UK economy grew by 1.4% over 2019 which has been deemed by the ONS as one of the slowest rates since the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. UK household spending only grew by 0.1% in the fourth quarter, with Brexit uncertainty being cited as the reason for the slow progress.
  • A consultation on the UK Global tariff (“UKGT”) was launched on 6 February 2020 by the Department for International Trade. The purpose of the consultation is to seek opinion on the UK tariffs which will apply to imported goods into the UK from 1 January 2021 unless such goods are subject to an exemption. Suggestions for the UKGT have included tariff banding, the removal of tariffs on goods typically used to produce other goods in the UK and the removal of tariffs on goods that are not, or rarely, produced in the UK. The consultation will close on 5 March 2020.
  • The Department for International Trade has also opened a second consultation on 10 February 2020 relating to its proposed freeports policy. The UK government’s intention is to establish 10 freeports across the UK which will be international hubs for manufacturing and innovation in the hope that business will be incentivised to relocate their manufacturing and processing plants there. Benefits of the freeports may include simplified customs procedures, tax incentives and suspension of financial duties. The consultation closes on 20 April 2020 and the announcement of the freeports is expected by the end of 2020.

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