Brexit: what happens next?
Published: 24 Jan 2020

The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020 at 11pm. Given that much of the legislation in the UK is either EU law that is directly applicable or UK domestic laws influenced by EU Directives, it is important to keep up-to-date about what might happen with the legislation after we leave the EU.

What happens with legislation after 31 January?

In short, nothing. Not yet anyway. The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 introduces an implementation period that will last until 11pm on 31 December 2020.

The implementation period is designed to give the UK time to reach a deal with the EU. During that period, the UK will continue as if it was a member of the EU, only UK representatives won't sit in the European Parliament.

This means that until 11pm on 31 December 2020, all EU legislation will continue to apply to the UK, including anything new that the EU publishes during that implementation period.

However, it is still recommended that companies prepare for a potential no-deal scenario and to evaluate how it may impact them.

What happens after 31 December?

Unfortunately, nobody knows yet what will happen. It depends entirely on the contents of any deal the UK manages to agree with the EU.

We'll be keeping a close eye on the situation and will provide applicable updates as soon as we have them.

What if a deal is not agreed on time?

If no deal is made, then a few things could happen with legislation in the UK:

  • all EU laws currently applicable to the UK will be adopted into the UK statute books as "retained" laws. The EU law will be retained exactly how it was immediately before the end of the implementation period;
  • the EU legislation and some UK legislation will have to be amended to remove references to the EU and EU regulatory bodies. If there is no deal, and our legislation, including retained laws, contain references to the EU it won't work correctly which could cause an issue. As such, there will be several amendments to legislation but very few fundamental changes are predicted.

As an extension to the implementation period has been ruled out, 31 December 2020 is the definite deadline for any deal to be made and for clarification about how the legislation will work in a post-EU UK.

However, as has been the case since the referendum back in 2016, it'll be a case of "watch this space".

Will anything change on Cedrec?

For the time being, no. All of the EU legislation on Cedrec is fully consolidated, and EU amendments published before 1 January 2021 will continue to be applied so that subscribers can be assured they have access to the legislation as it stands. New EU laws published before the end of the implementation period will also be added to Cedrec.

Those who have taken advantage of our register of legislation update service will continue to be updated on any changes to applicable laws. In terms of the registers themselves, nothing will change for the time being.

EU Exit Legislation

The UK Government have continued to publish EU Exit legislation that amends and corrects deficiencies in both UK legislation and EU legislation that will be retained in the UK.

These aim to ensure that legislation continues to operate effectively after the UK's transition period with the European Union ends. 

Initially much of this legislation was due to come into force on "exit day", 31 January 2020. However due to the UK being in a transition or implementation period with the EU until 31 December 2020, then the coming into force of this legislation has been delayed by the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, to coincide with the end of this period.

This means that those pieces of legislation will instead come into force when the implementation phase is complete, or as legislation refers to it, on "IP completion day".

On Cedrec you may see that some legislation has pending amendments in the "Revocations and amendments" list that state the legislation will be amended by something on "IP completion day". For example:

"Revocations and amendments

These Regulations have been amended by the:

  • Environment (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment etc.) (No. 2) Regulations SSI 2019/436, on IP completion day."

This just means that the legislation will be amended by that EU Exit legislation, but not until IP completion day, which is currently 31 December 2020.


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