On 21 June 2017, the U.K. Government announced through the Queen’s Speech an International Sanctions Bill intended, as part of other Brexit legislation, “to ensure that the United Kingdom makes a success of Brexit.” The bill will provide the U.K. with the legal framework and powers needed to enable it to impose and implement sanctions in order to comply with its obligations under the United Nations Charter and to support wider foreign policy and national security goals after the U.K.’s exit from the EU.

Main Benefits of the Bill

The government’s background briefing paper accompanying the Queen’s Speech identifies that the main benefits of the bill would be:

  • To ensure that, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the U.K. continues to play a central role in negotiating global sanctions to counter threats of terrorism, conflict and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, as well as bringing about changes in behavior.
  • To return decision-making powers on non-UN sanctions to the U.K.
  • To enable the U.K.’s continued compliance with international laws after the U.K.’s exit from the EU.

Key Elements of the Bill

The key elements of the bill are:

  • To provide a domestic legislative framework to allow the government to:
    • Impose sanctions to ensure compliance with obligations under international law after the U.K.’s exit from the EU. These include asset freezes, travel bans, and trade and market restrictions.
    • Ensure individuals and organisations can challenge or request a review of the sanctions imposed on them.
    • Exempt or license certain types of activity, such as payments for food and medicine, which otherwise would be restricted by sanctions.
    • Amend regulations for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing and to pass new ones after the U.K.’s exit from the EU.

Jurisdiction

In terms of jurisdiction the Briefing Paper states that the bill would apply to the whole of the U.K. and would also contain provisions to extend its reach to the U.K.’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies as appropriate.

Background to the Bill – Government Consultation on Sanctions Post-Brexit

On 21 April 2017, the Foreign and Commonwealth office, HM Treasury and Department for International Trade, launched a ‘Public Consultation on the United Kingdom’s future legal framework for imposing and implementing sanctions’ to seek views on the legal powers the Government will need upon the U.K.’s withdrawal from the.

The U.K. needs to be able to impose and implement sanctions in order to comply with international obligations and to support foreign policy and national security goals. However, like other members of the EU, many of the U.K.’s powers to implement sanctions flow from the European Communities Act 1972, requiring new legal powers post-Brexit to replace these.

The consultation puts forward proposed powers to designate individuals and impose financial and trade restrictions including primary legislation (which requires an Act of Parliament) to create a framework containing powers to impose sanctions regimes, the details of which will be laid out in the secondary legislation made using those powers.

The legislation will also include provisions relating to the processes which will apply when sanctions are created, such as provisions for reviews, challenges, and enforcement. The secondary legislation will put in place measures for specific sanctions regimes and because it can be made without an Act of Parliament it enables a rapid and flexible response to evolving international issues allowing for targets to be listed, thus preventing asset flight or other sanctions evasion.

The consultation sets out the government’s expectation that the powers included in the new primary legislation will:

  • Complement existing powers in the Immigration Act 1971 to deport or exclude a person from the U.K.
  • Enable application of asset freezes to designated persons.
  • Expedite the freezing of assets.
  • Allow adoption of financial and trade restrictions, preventing U.K. persons and operators from engaging in specified trade or financial activities with a target country or regime, or to trade arms with a target country, part of a country, or a target regime.
  • Complement existing powers in the transport sector to control use of ports, ships, aircraft, and other transport vehicles used in relation to sanctions targets.

Comment

Until negotiations on the U.K.’s exit from the EU are concluded, the U.K. remains a full member of the EU. During this period the U.K. Government will continue to implement and apply existing EU sanctions legislation.

It is, however, clear from the consultation and the bill that the government’s current intention is to try to ensure that the U.K.’s new sanctions powers enable it to impose and implement sanctions legislation consistent with the EU sanctions regime while also potentially allowing it to respond more rapidly than the EU to emerging risks to national and international security.

The consultation also states that the U.K. will continue its robust approach to the enforcement of sanctions which was augmented in April of this year by the introduction of new monetary penalties. It remains to be seen precisely what form the new legislation will take and government is currently analyzing the feedback to the consultation which ended on 23 June 2017.