Brexit Withdrawal Act given Royal Assent

Brexit is moving a step closer with the Withdrawal Agreement Act now in statute following Royal Assent and completion of the implementation period by 31 December 2020 

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 has now been enacted, smoothing the path for the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 January at 11pm, repealing the European Communities Act 1972. The Act sets a deadline for completion of the implementation period - transition period - by 11pm on 31 December 2020. The Act includes a 'prohibition on extending the implementation period'. 

The Act implements the agreement between the UK and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which sets out the arrangements for the withdrawal from the EU.

EU-derived domestic legislation continues to have effect in domestic law on and after Brexit day, including any tax, duty or levies under EU rules. It also indicates that any EU legislation currently in draft stage will proceed as planned as long as it is passed before implementation day.

The Act also references the financial settlement provision and a commitment to pay the so-called 'divorce settlement', stating in para 20, section 1: 'Any sum that is required to be paid to the EU or an EU entity to meet any obligation that the UK has by virtue of the withdrawal agreement is to be charged on and paid out of the Consoldiated Fund, or if the Treasury so decides, the National Loans Fund'. 

The Bill passed through parliament despite objections from the House of Lords over the settlement status of EU citizens living in the UK, and opposition from Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland devolved parliaments.

The Lords tabled an unsuccessful amendment calling for a physical record of settled status, rather than the current online confirmation. 

This was rejected by the House of Commons, with Brexit minister Steve Barclay telling MPs earlier this week that the amendment would have required the government’ to bring forward regulations making provisions for those with declaratory rights to apply for a document evidencing their rights’’

The current EU settlement scheme ‘would need to be abandoned, because there would be no need to register if people could later rely on a declaration that they were already in the UK,’ he added.

‘This would make null and void the 2.8m applications and the 2.5m grants of status that have already been completed’.

EU citizens will be able to download ‘secure share codes’ which can be printed or sent to anyone who requires proof of status, including employers, Barclay said.

‘We need to be able to differentiate between EU citizens who arrived pre-exit and have rights set out in this Bill and EU citizens who arrive after we leave, who will be treated the same as the rest of the world under the forthcoming immigration Bill,’ Barclay added.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 (c. 1)

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