Thursday, 24 January, the Irish Government published the Heads of Bill for the Miscellaneous Provisions (Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019) Bill 2019 (the Brexit Bill). The Brexit Bill is a single omnibus Bill which is composed of 17 parts and has been prepared by 9 Ministers.
The Brexit Bill proposes a number of contingency measures to mitigate the risks associated with a no deal Brexit, in which the UK would become a ‘third country’, falling outside the Single Market and Customs Union, and the framework of EU law. Contingency measures are specifically proposed in the areas of health, education, energy, financial services, taxation, transport, employment and justice.
Some of the key measures proposed in the Brexit Bill:
- Arrangements for North-South cooperation in the areas of healthcare, transport, education and energy. For example, in energy, an interim measure is proposed in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which will allow the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) to amend Single Electricity Market (SEM) licences where necessary for the operation of the SEM and to ensure compliance with the EU acquis.
- Adjustments to Income Tax, Capital Tax, Corporation Tax and Stamp Duty legislation in order to provide continuity for businesses in their current access to certain taxation measures. This includes reliefs and allowances contingent on EEA residency or establishment as well as the retention of a number of anti-avoidance provisions.
- Providing Enterprise Ireland with the power to offer investment and loans as instruments of enterprise development support. There is likely to be an increased demand for such supports in a no-deal Brexit scenario. Certain critical research industries, such as veterinary and pharmaceutical, are earmarked for research, development and innovation (RD&I) grants and such grants are to be extended to non-industrial sectors, namely, horticulture.
- Ensuring contract continuity for existing insurance policies. A temporary run-off regime will enable insurance undertakings and intermediaries to service existing contracts for three years from the date of withdrawal of the UK.
- Protection of outstanding wage-related entitlements owed to employees in the event of the insolvency of a UK-based employer.
The Brexit Bill now goes to the legislative drafting division within the Office of the Attorney General where the proposed measures will be elaborated in greater detail. In addition to the bumper Brexit Bill, Government has also signalled that a further 28 statutory instruments are being developed to deal with mutual recognition issues, ranging from driving licences to educational and professional qualifications.