On Friday, 22 February, the Government published the ‘Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2019’ (the Bill), an omnibus bill composed of 15 parts and 91 sections which has been developed by nine ministers. Many of the proposals found in the Heads of the Bill published last month, which we previously discussed, have been retained.
The Bill is a contingency plan in the event that the UK exit from the EU is a ‘no deal’ scenario. If a managed withdrawal arrangement is brokered between the EU and the UK in advance of 11pm on 29 March 2019, then the Bill will not become operational and will acquiesce to those superior arrangements.
More than half of the Bill’s provisions seek to address matters of taxation and set out a raft of amendments to the primary Income Tax, Capital Tax, Corporation Tax and Stamp Duty acts. These amendments seek to ensure continuity in relation to current access to certain taxation measures such as reliefs and allowances.
If the UK leaves the EU, without any continuation of reciprocal laws currently in place governing insolvency across the EU, then employers in a state of insolvency under the laws of the UK would no longer fall within the scope of the Protection of Employees (Employers’ Insolvency) Act unless it is amended. The Bill proposes that, in the event of an employer becoming insolvent under the laws of the UK, any employees of that employer who are employed or habitually employed in Ireland whose employers become insolvent under the laws of the UK, will continue to be covered in Ireland.
Proposals are outlined which will amend the Immigration Acts 1999 and Immigration Act 2003 in order to ensure that immigration officers, in considering removing or deporting a person from the State, have, in line with EU and international obligations, the power to undertake a refoulement consideration. Refoulement relates to the international legal principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution.
There is also a proposal to introduce a basis in law for taking fingerprints of Irish visa and Irish transit visa applicants so as to ensure continuation of the British-Irish Visa Scheme, pursuant to Common Travel Area arrangements.
The Bill proposes to make amendments necessary to support the implementation of the European Commission’s equivalence decision under the Central Securities Depositories (CSD) Regulation and to extend the protections contained in the Settlement Finality Directive to Irish participants of UK systems for temporary period. In relation to insurance and reinsurance, there are provisions in the Bill to ensure 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.
A transitional arrangement will be introduced to ensure stability for the all-island Single Electricity Market which is jointly operated and managed north and south of the border. The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities will be permitted, for up to one year, to amend the licences of participants in the electricity market for a period of up to one year through a fast tracked process, in order to ensure compliance in an expeditious manner and to facilitate the continuing operation of the Single Electricity Market.
The Bill must now proceed through the Houses of the Oireachtas before becoming law and must do so in advance of 11pm on the 29 March 2019. The Government has proposed the following schedule for the Bill’s next steps:
• Week of 25 February: The Bill does to the Dáil, second stage.
• Week of 4 March: The Bill goes to the Committee, Report and Final Stage in the Dáil.
• Week of 11 March: The Bill goes to the Seanad.