The UK government has set out plans in this week’s Queen’s Speech for a new International Sanctions Bill (the “Bill“) that aims to ensure that the UK will continue to meet its international sanctions policy obligations and national security objectives after its withdrawal from the European Union.
The UK currently implements 34 sanctions regimes, each of which aims to influence a change in unacceptable behaviour, constrain certain activities (such as nuclear weapons programmes) or communicate disapproval. Many of these exist within EU legislation and will therefore need to be transferred into UK law or replaced before Brexit.
On 21 April 2017, the UK government published a white paper seeking views on the legal powers that will be needed if the UK is to retain the ability to impose and implement sanctions after Brexit (the “White Paper“). In particular, the White Paper identified the need for the UK government to:
- remain compliant with its UN sanctions obligations;
- support its wider foreign policy; and
- meet its national security goals.
No draft legislation had been introduced to address these issues by the time of the dissolution of Parliament prior to the 8 June General Election.
Draft legislation: what to expect
The Queen’s Speech on 21 June 2017 set out some further detail on what we can expect when the Bill is published over the coming months.
The objective of the Bill reflects the basic requirements set out in the White Paper, indicating that the UK government intends to continue with the approach taken in the last parliament. The Bill will provide a domestic legislative framework so that the government can:
- impose sanctions to ensure compliance with international obligations (including asset freezes, travel bans and trade restrictions);
- allow individuals and organisations to challenge sanctions imposed on them;
- exempt or license certain types of activity that would otherwise be restricted (including payments for food and medicine); and
- amend anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulations and pass new ones after Brexit.
If passed, the Bill would apply to the whole of the UK. It is intended that there will be provision for the extension of application to UK overseas territories and crown dependencies in the future as appropriate.
We will update this blog as further detail emerges regarding the content of the Bill, and if there are any significant developments or amendments as it progresses through Parliament.