Joint Committee and Internal Market Bill update – October update

As part of our Brexit blog series this week, we are taking a look at some of the main developments over the course of the last month. With just 66 days to go until the end of the transition period, information about the future relationship between the UK and EU is critical.

Understanding the importance of the Joint Committee

The Joint Committee is responsible for making sure that there are no misunderstandings between the UK and the EU that may prevent the full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Joint Committee is also is responsible for resolving any disputes that may arise whether that’s linked to interpretation of the agreement or application.

Given the current political tone to negotiations, and the Joint Committee’s role with regards to the Northern Ireland Protocol, the outcome of these discussions is vital to understanding the way forward from 1 January 2021.

Joint Committee fourth meeting and statement

On 19 October 2020, the Joint Committee met for the fourth time. A key outcome from the meeting was the stated intention to commit what little time remains, before the end of transition, to bridge existing implementation gaps, essentially ramping up efforts to ensure resolution for outstanding issues, especially on Northern Ireland.

In respect of Northern Ireland, the EU Commission has agreed to give the UK access to the necessary IT systems, databases and networks needed to fulfil its obligations under the Protocol. We await further details on what exact systems and databases these are. However, the EU did raise concerns on the lack of progress that has been made defining the criteria for goods to be considered ‘not at risk’ of moving into the Union.

Other issues and progress to be made

Both sides acknowledged there was progress made on citizen’s rights and the joint Decision on the list of arbitrators for the dispute settlement mechanism, which means it can be established before year end.  However, the EU reiterated the need for the UK to accelerate work on the practical implementation of the agreement, especially on borders and VAT.

Both sides demonstrated political will to move at pace, and the next meeting of the Joint Committee will take place in mid-November.

Internal Market Bill

Elsewhere in Brexit, the Internal Market Bill began its second reading in the House of Lords last week. This particular bill is still contentious given it could re-write parts of the withdrawal agreement and the UK devolved administrations also see it as a potential loss of their current powers.

The bill is still seeing amendments made by the House of Lords and talks continue over the coming days. The controversial elements could be resolved at this point either via amendments or through an accord with the EU.

What businesses can do

As always businesses can continue to prepare for the changes to trading with the EU, the ADS Brexit Hub contains useful links to the guidance for these issues and we will keep the hub updated as talks progress.