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As we have reported previously, the result of the European Union referendum (Brexit) was announced on 24 June 2016 with a vote in favour of the United Kingdom exiting.
We have issued a series of Brexit updates since the date of the referendum. To access such prior alerts, please visit our Brexit page.
Theresa May's Brexit speech in Florence
On 22 September 2017, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivered a speech in Florence seeking to help progress negotiations between the UK and the EU before the fourth round of Brexit talks that began on 25 September 2017 in Brussels. The speech addressed a number of areas concerning the future relationship between the UK and the EU, as well as how any new relationship could be implemented.
The key points arising from the Prime Minister's speech were:
- The Prime Minister ("PM") stated that although the UK is leaving the EU, it wants to work with the EU as the trading bloc's strongest partner.
- The PM also affirmed that the UK and the EU are committed to protecting the Belfast Agreement and the Common Travel Area, although it was not specified how this would be achieved.
- All EU citizens residing in the UK are 'wanted to stay' and any agreement concerning their rights will be enshrined in UK law for UK courts to directly refer to.
- The UK will seek to align itself with the EU's rules and regulations but will form its own agreement with the EU in respect of how to accomplish this; the UK will not seek to maintain its relationship with the EU in the form of an EEA agreement or a Canada-EU style free trade agreement.
- The PM acknowledged that there is a need for a mechanism to resolve disputes relating to a UK-EU agreement but, as neither the ECJ nor the UK courts would be suitable, it remains to be seen what the appropriate mechanism for resolving disputes will be.
- The UK is unconditionally committed to maintaining the quality of the security collaboration that presently exists between the UK and the EU. The PM has proposed the creation of a new strategic security agreement that will provide for a comprehensive framework for future security, law enforcement and criminal justice co-operation.
In order to facilitate a new relationship between the UK and the EU, a transition period has been proposed to allow time to adjust to the new arrangements. The PM stated that the transition period will be of mutual interest for both the UK and the EU, and will provide certainty for people, businesses and public services. The transition period will be time-limited and this could be a period of approximately two years, which is the length of time thought to be needed 'to re-take control of the UK's borders'. Under this proposal, the UK-EU relationship will continue on its current terms, including the free movement of EU citizens. However, European citizens entering the UK during the transition period will be subject to a registration system. In exchange for the transition period, the UK will continue to meet its financial obligations to the EU, which are believed to be worth in the region of 20 billion euros. This transition period will mean that businesses operating in the UK and the EU will only have to plan for one set of changes at the end of the transition period and the continuation of the UK's financial commitments during this period will mean that other EU Member States will not pay more or receive less on account of the UK's decision to leave the EU.
The overall message of the PM's speech has been well received as constructive within the EU, with the EU's Chief negotiator Michael Barnier stating that the speech 'shows a willingness to move forward'. However, the speech lacked detail relating to a number of sensitive negotiation issues and the offer of the UK to meet its financial obligations until 2020 is perceived to have fallen short of longer-term financial commitments sought by EU officials.
We will continue to monitor and report on the issues raised in this alert from the perspective of our clients, as we have done so in prior alerts relating to Brexit. To access such prior alerts, please visit our Brexit page. Further updates will follow in due course.
In the blur of mega firms, Brown Rudnick stands out as a “global boutique” and has in place a multi-disciplinary, international Brexit Team. We are monitoring and analysing the consequences and considerations for businesses and are ready to advise on the potential legal implications of Brexit. The Brown Rudnick Brexit Team is available to advise on the issues across a broad range of sectors within our areas of expertise.
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