Following the General Election on 12th December and the Queen’s Speech on 19th December, there is little doubt that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will become law and that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union as at 31st January 2020.
A core part of the Withdrawal Agreement refers to a “transition or implementation period” under Article 126 during which the UK and EU will negotiate a trading agreement. This period begins when the UK leaves the EU and ends, by default on 31 December 2020. However the UK and EU can jointly agree, on a one-off basis, to extend that period by a further period of ‘up to two-years,’ under Article 132. Whilst the Conservative Party pledged in their manifesto that the transition period would be restricted to the original date i.e. 31 December 2020 come what may, it is possible that this period is, in fact, extended. During the transition period, the UK has to follow most of EU law in (mostly) the same way as it does now as a Member State. There are some exceptions to this continuation of EU law, which are set out in the Withdrawal Agreement itself. The result of this is that in practice not very much will change until the end of next year (assuming it will take the full year to conclude the trade deal) and that changes will depend on what kind of trade deal is concluded.
It remains difficult to predict the impact the withdrawal from the EU will have on London as a first-class litigation centre, but also on doing business in general, particularly when so much is in the air.
Back in June 2019, we reviewed what the impact of a ‘no-deal Brexit’ might have on commercial life in Britain. We reasoned that in some circumstances, parties may well find that Brexit has impacted them in a way that they are no longer able to perform their contractual obligations or that performance has become unduly onerous. This remains relevant today and it is worth looking at the legal mechanisms available under English Law in the case that the unique challenges posed by Brexit leave parties with little choice but to litigate.
We remain very positive that London is, and will continue to be, an attractive jurisdiction.