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Brexit

Brexit

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Brexit: current state of affairs

 

Chronology

On 23 June 2016, British citizens voted in favour of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU). This withdrawal, called Brexit and initially scheduled for 29 March 2019, led to negotiations resulting in a Withdrawal Agreement (WA).

The WA covers matters previously regulated in coordination with the various EU Member States for the period between its entry into force to 31 December 2020. However, this Withdrawal Agreement did not receive the assent of the British Parliament on the multiple occasions on which it was voted, i.e. on 15 January, 12 and 29 March 2019 postponing the Brexit to 12 April and then to 31 October 2019.

While the British MPs had to give their approval to the text negotiated with the European Union at the end of October, they decided to postpone their decision in order to force their Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to request a further postponement of the Brexit thanks to the Benn Act (in the absence of an agreement between the EU and the UK, Boris Johnson is forced to ask Brussels for a postponement of Brexit). This time the date of the Brexit is set for 31 January 2020. In response to this, the British Prime Minister tables a motion to hold early elections. On 12 December 2019, Boris Johnson's Conservative Party won an absolute majority in Parliament with 365 seats out of 650.

On 9 January 2020, the House of Commons adopted the text that translated into British law the modalities of the UK's withdrawal from the EU. On 1 February 2020, the UK officially becomes a third country with which the EU can start negotiations on the future relationship. On that date, the transition period that will end on 31 December 2020 also begins.



Transition period

The entry into force of the WA marks the end of the period referred to in Article 50 of the TEU (exit of a MS from the EU) and the beginning of a transition period that should last until 31 December 2020. This transition period is intended to give citizens and businesses time to adapt.

During the transition period, the UK will continue to apply EU law, but will no longer be represented in its institutions. The transitional period may be extended once for a maximum of one or two years, if both parties agree about that extension before 1 July 2020.

For its part, the UK has anchored the provisions on the WA in its legislation through the EU [Withdrawal Agreement] Bill.



Future relationship

The European Council adopted on 25 February 2020 a decision authorising the opening of negotiations for a new partnership with the United Kingdom and formally appointing the EU's negotiating Commission. The Council also adopted negotiating directives, which constitute the mandate given to the Commission in this framework. These directives are an extension of the political declaration made by the UK and the EU with a view to setting the framework for their future relations. David Frost, the UK representative, and Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, are responsible for the negotiations on the future relationship that will start, in principle, on 1 January 2021.

Boris Johnson, for his part, has already signalled his intention to seek a Canadian-style free trade agreement. To date, the positions between the two blocs differ somewhat as the European Union favours a "deal or no deal" approach while the UK is more oriented towards a solution characterised by the approval of various "packages". Four main themes are thus at the centre of the discussions : (1) fisheries (access to fish-bearing waters and sustainable management of stocks), (2) judicial and police cooperation in criminal matters, (3) fair competition (zero tariffs, zero quotas provided that there is no dumping on state aid or on social, fiscal, environmental, agricultural and health standards) and (4) governance (monitoring of commitments).

Following the various meetings between the negotiators and their respective teams, the European Commission published on 18 March 2020 a draft legal agreement for the future partnership between the EU and the United Kingdom. This draft translates into a legal text the negotiating directives approved by the Member States at the General Affairs Council of 25 February 2020, in accordance with the political declaration jointly adopted by the EU and the United Kingdom in October 2019.

However, the current global crisis caused by the Covid-19 virus has significantly slowed down negotiations between the two sides. Negotiators first announced that they would postpone the second round of negotiations, scheduled for 18-20 March in London, to a later date. The next rounds of negotiations will thus take place on 20 April, 11 May and 1 June, with each round to take place over the course of a week, with a view to the High-Level Conference (scheduled for June), which should take note of the progress of the negotiations and possibly take a decision on extending the transition period. In this connection, while Boris Johnson has repeatedly reiterated his intention not to extend the transitional period, Ursula von der Leyen recently stated that the Commission would not oppose a British request to extend the transitional period in the light of the current situation.

As a reminder, in the event of a no deal [on the future relationship], EU law will no longer apply to the UK and British citizens who do not fall within the scope of the Withdrawal Agreement will be considered as third country nationals from 1 January 2021.




Social Protection & Health Care 

 

Current situation

The social protection of persons moving within the European Union is currently governed by a specific European regulation that protects the social protection rights of EU citizens:

  • these persons are always subject to the legislation of one country and therefore only pay social security contributions in one country;
  • these persons have the same rights and obligations as nationals of the country in which they are insured;
  • for benefits, the periods during which these persons were insured, worked or resided in other countries are taken into account (aggregation of periods);
  • if these persons are entitled to a benefit from one country, they generally also receive it if they reside in another country (exportability).

 

These principles and these regulations apply for:

  • Walloons who work or reside in the United Kingdom;
  • British citizens who work or reside in the Walloon Region.

They shall remain applicable for the entire duration of the transition period, i.e. until 31 December 2020.



British citizens in the Walloon Region

The withdrawal agreement document as negotiated between the EU and the United Kingdom provides for two periods:

  • from 31 January 2019 to 31 December 2020 inclusive : transition period during which the United Kingdom is no longer an EU member. The European social protection rules nevertheless remain fully applicable: the situation of British citizens in the Walloon Region therefore undergoes no change ;
  • from 1 January 2021 [or the new date established as a result of the negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom] : European regulations are no longer applicable. However, certain social protection rights remain guaranteed for British citizens, stateless persons, refugees and EU citizens having made use of the free movement of people before 31 December 2020. A system is yet to be developed for other situations.

 



Walloons in the United Kingdom

The withdrawal agreement document as negotiated between the EU and the United Kingdom provides for two periods:

  • from 31 January 2019 to 31 December 2020 inclusive : transition period during which the United Kingdom is no longer an EU member. European social protection rules nevertheless remain fully applicable: the situation of Walloons in the United Kingdom therefore undergoes no change;
  • from 1 January 2021 [or the new date established as a result of the negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom] : European regulations are no longer applicable. However, certain social protection rights remain guaranteed for Walloons, stateless persons, refugees and EU citizens having made use of the free movement of people before 31 December 2020 [or the new date set by the extension of the Brexit deadline]. A system is yet to be developed for other situations.

 

 

You can find further information about Brexit at the following addresses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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