On Tuesday, 24 July, the UK government released a White Paper on Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU). It sets out the UK government’s plans for the withdrawal legislation once a final agreement has been reached.
What is it?
Once the United Kingdom (UK) leaves the European Union (EU), it will have to pass its own legislation to bring the final Withdrawal Agreement into domestic law. The UK’s White Paper on Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union (the ‘Legislating for Withdrawal’ White Paper) sets out a blue print for this legislation in the following areas: citizens’ rights; the implementation period; the negotiated financial settlement; the procedure for approval and implementation of a final Withdrawal Agreement and framework for a future EU-UK relationship.
The Northern Ireland backstop issue is not covered in this White Paper as negotiations are still ongoing, though it does state that the UK “has been clear about its steadfast commitment to the Belfast Agreement“.
How is this different from the ‘Future Relationship’ White Paper?
Following a UK Cabinet meeting at Chequers, the UK government released a separate White Paper on 12 July entitled, White Paper on the Future Relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union (the ‘Future Relationship’ White Paper). Where the ‘Legislating for Withdrawal’ White Paper deals with how to wind down the current relationship, the ‘Future Relationship’ White Paper published on 12 July outlines the UK’s vision for its relationship with the EU post-Brexit. For more on the ‘Future Relationship’ White Paper see our ‘All EU Need to Know’.
What is in the ‘Legislating for Withdrawal’ White Paper?
The ‘Legislating for Withdrawal’ White Paper reiterates what was outlined in the draft agreement produced by the European Commission in February 2018: EU citizens who have been legally living in the UK for at least five years by 31 December 2020 (the end of the implementation period) can apply for settled status, meaning “they will be free to live here, have access to public funds and services and go on to apply for British citizenship”. EU citizens who arrive in the UK by 31 December 2020 but don’t meet the five-year threshold will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the five-year mark and can then apply for settled status.
The ‘Legislating for Withdrawal’ White Paper goes on to outline provisions for ensuring equal treatment and non-discrimination for EU citizens residing or working in the UK (and vice-versa); continued recognition of professional qualifications where recognition procedures were ongoing or completed before 31 December 2020; and coordination of social security systems across Member States which will continue to apply across the UK, even after the implementation period is over. It proposes that an independent authority be established to monitor the implementation of these rights.
The implementation period
Provided a deal on withdrawal is reached, an implementation (or transition) period is proposed to commence on the UK’s departure on 29 March 2019 and last until 31 December 2020. The ‘Legislating for Withdrawal’ White Paper states that, while the 1972 European Communities Act (giving EU law effect in the UK) will be repealed on 29 March 2019, under the implementation arrangements EU law would continue to apply in the UK until 31 December 2020.
During this implementation period, the UK is to be treated as a Member State for the purposes of international agreements but will be able to “negotiate, ratify and sign international agreements – including new free trade agreements” which can be brought into force immediately after the implementation period. The ‘Legislating for Withdrawal’ White Paper states that any such agreement will be provided for in separate legislation.
The negotiated financial settlement
The financial settlement refers to an agreement to cover the UK’s financial commitments to the EU and vice versa. The ‘Legislating for Withdrawal’ White Paper states that the final amount will depend on future events, but indicates that the UK will contribute to the EU’s annual budget for 2019 and 2020. It states that the UK will “benefit from the implementation of the budget as if it has remained a Member State” over this period, and will pay its share of outstanding EU budget contributions at the end of 2020. It will also continue to participate in the European Development Fund until December 2020.
A treaty outlining the future relationship between the EU and the UK can only be negotiated once the UK has left the EU. However, a framework on the future relationship must be agreed in advance to allow for a transition period after the UK leaves. If agreed, this will take the form of a political declaration alongside the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement.
The ‘Legislating for Withdrawal’ White Paper states that the final Withdrawal Agreement must include commitments from the UK and the EU to finalise legal agreements for a future EU-UK relationship as soon as possible once the UK has left the EU in March 2019.