The dawn of a new era is now upon us. We are finally at the departure, at the withdrawal and at the exit. However you wish to describe where the Brexit process presently is, whether this is good or bad for you, your family or your business, whether you are celebrating or commiserating, by 11 pm tonight, the 31 January 2020, the rule book will be different.
At 11 pm, the 541 page Withdrawal Agreement is officially implemented.
At 11pm, we kick start an 11th month clock until 31 December 2020. The purpose is for the UK and EU to negotiate a new trade agreement and security arrangements.
Can this transition or implementation period be extended? Yes, although the mechanism in true Brexit style is nuanced. The highlight is that it could be possible for the negotiation to be extended up to 2 years to 31 December 2022. But given the new political mandate following the recent general election, an extension is very unlikely.
So what happens now, at 11pm tonight. Probably very little. Whilst the UK will no longer be a member of EU political institutions i.e. no UK MEPs in the European Parliament and no attendance of European Council meetings, the idea is, during the transition, for the UK to remain subject to EU law.
After 31 December 2020
So what happens after 31 December 2020, after the end of the transition? A lot depends on whether there is a new trade agreement in place.
Can a new free trade agreement with an unequal playing field be reached in time? If so then it is down those terms.
If not, and if no extension to the transition period, then whilst UK trade and security with the EU essentially falls back to World Trade Organisation terms, we will then enter into a period of so called divergence.
What is divergence?
So what is divergence? Divergence means, even if a new trade agreement is not agreed, the UK will continue to make itself subject to EU law. There are hundreds of statutory instruments in place whose purpose is to retain EU law into UK law. The big difference though, the UK would be able to diverge from the EU law at any time if it wanted to, and the UK courts could interpret EU law differently if it wanted.
Whilst we are at this dawn of a new era, heralding the greatest change in the legal and political landscape the UK has seen in a generation, on this momentous historical and fateful day, could it be said that not much will really happen?!
However, carpe diem for today. If you have been putting off sorting out a legal problem, or you have a legal question you want some certainty over, then get in touch with one of our legal experts at Curwens.
Contact our Solicitors in Enfield, Hoddesdon & Royston
Call us on 020 8363 4444 (Enfield), 01992 463727 (Hoddesdon), 01763 241261 (Royston), or fill out our online enquiry form.
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