So This Is Brexit? UK Competition Law Post 31 January 2020

By, Cooley Alert

Since the UK’s referendum on EU membership in June 2016, there has been significant uncertainty over when the UK would leave the EU (commonly referred to as Brexit), whether the terms for departure could be agreed in time to avoid a “no deal” exit and even whether Brexit would happen at all. While these uncertainties have now been resolved sufficiently to enable Brexit to take place on 31 January and the medium term legal framework is clear, longer term uncertainty remains.

Following Prime Minister Theresa May’s formal notification of the UK’s intention to leave the EU on 29 March 2017, the country was originally due to cease to be a member state on 29 March 2019. Under Article 50 of the EU Treaty, the default position was that the EU treaties would cease to apply to the UK on that date. As a result of the UK government’s inability to win parliamentary approval of the terms of departure that it provisionally agreed with the EU in November 2018, this deadline was subsequently extended three times, to 12 April and 31 October 2019 and, most recently, to 31 January 2020. A new Withdrawal Agreement was subsequently negotiated and published on 17 October 2019. The new Conservative government’s large parliamentary majority since the general election on 12 December 2019 ensured that this new agreement (which was largely the same as the old one, except with respect to Northern Ireland) could be passed through the UK Parliament.

The new Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK government, which sets out the terms for the UK’s “orderly departure” from the EU, was signed by both parties on 24 January. It will take effect as an international treaty, albeit some provisions will take direct effect and thus create directly enforceable rights…

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