Brexit: Your Questions Answered

Read our responses to some of the common questions we have been asked by clients since the UK voted to leave the EU in the 2016 Referendum.

As the end of the transition period looms, Jamie Richardson and the rest of the F&L team are set to explain what's happening. We will consider the impact of Brexit in a global context and answer your questions as and when they arise, sharing the most frequently asked questions here on our website. You can sign up to receive our Brexit coverage here.

Has the UK actually left the EU?

Yes but…

Despite 3 extensions to Article 50 in 2019, the UK officially left the EU at 11.00 pm UK time on 31 January 2020 (“Exit Day”). At the same time, the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement came into force.  

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, the post-Brexit transition period ends at 11.00 pm UK time on 31 December 2020. Until then, the UK is treated for most purposes as if it were still an EU member state.

What happens at the end of the transition period?

A lot…

  • EU rules and regulations continue to apply in the UK during the transition period. The UK government has passed legislation that retains a majority of European law for the UK immediately after the transition period. The EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill amended the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 so that the conversion of EU law into 'retained EU law' can take place at the end of the transition period.

    The retained EU law will be amended by UK legislation and many of the Statutory Instruments (SIs) made in preparation for a no-deal on “Exit Day” scenario will instead come into force on (or by reference to) the end of the transition period. Over time, more new UK policies will be introduced to replace the retained EU law versions of EU policies.

    Some aspects of legal continuity are dependent on reciprocity and are therefore contingent on the UK government reaching international agreements with the EU, individual EU member states or non-EU countries. Such agreements could be temporary (such as transitional arrangements) or more permanent (such as future UK-EU relationship agreements). It is a phenomenally complex undertaking that should not be underestimated. The parties involved are in for some long nights!

  • Other provisions which aim to reduce short term disruption (e.g. to ongoing trade procedures and judicial proceedings) will be introduced.
  • Under the Withdrawal Agreement, British citizens who are lawfully resident in EU member states before 1 January 2021 will be able to continue to live, work and travel provided they apply for residence status before 30 June 2021. The EU has agreed to add the UK to the EU's list of visa exempt countries. This would give British citizens the right to travel to the EU after the transition period for up to 90 days without a visa, within any 180 day period; however, this would be conditional on the UK granting visa free travel to EU citizens to the UK.

    Visas for short business trips and longer visits to the EU will be a matter for negotiation between the UK and the EU. The rights of British citizens in Ireland (and vice versa) are covered under the Ireland Act 1949, which will continue to apply after 2020 - they do not have to make a request for settled status.

  • The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland will also start applying.

Will the UK be operating any EU laws at the end of the transition period?

Yes…

At the end of the transition period certain provisions will be given special status in UK law, as detailed in the Withdrawal Agreement, so that EU law continues to apply in the UK (at least temporarily) in areas such as citizens' rights, separation matters and the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

Should I prepare for no-deal?

Yes…

The Withdrawal Agreement is only designed to ease the transition to exit. It does not address the long term arrangements for UK-EU trade, security, transport or judicial cooperation. New UK international agreements will need to come into force to maintain continuity and negotiations on many areas are likely to continue for some time after the end of the transition period. With so much yet to be outlined, it's a good idea to prepare for a no-deal scenario.

As outlined in our previous article on getting ready for a no-deal Brexit, our advice for clients is this: planning for no-deal now is your best course of action.

What next?

You will probably have many questions specific to your operations or employees. Please contact your usual F&L representative or email info@fitzandlaw.com if you would like advice on the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit on your business and to find out how we can help you prepare for a smooth transition.

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