Theresa May’s Brexit draft withdrawal agreement finally published

What does Theresa May's Brexit agreement mean to employers?

The Cabinet has agreed Theresa May’s Brexit plan, after she said it was her deal, no deal or “no Brexit at all”.

The Prime Minister secured her senior ministers’ support in an emergency Cabinet meeting which lasted five hours. A third of Cabinet – 11 out of 29 ministers – spoke out against the deal, the Telegraph understands. Mrs May said the deal was agreed after a “impassioned” debate, adding that no decisions were not taken lightly.  She said,

I know there will be difficult days ahead. This is a decision which will come under intense scrutiny.

Jacob Rees-Mogg responded saying he cannot support the deal and urged other MPs to oppose it, claiming it does not meet promises made by Mrs May.The Prime Minister will now meet Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, who is in London for showdown talks with the Prime Minister after her colleagues warned the eal could lead to the break up of the UK.

But what does it mean for employers? Paul Holcroft, Associate Director at Croner, comments,

After months of negotiations, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a draft plan for Brexit that has been signed off by Europe and agreed by her Cabinet. Whilst it is yet uncertain if this deal will go through Parliament, the 585-page document does provide further clarity on what May’s Brexit deal could mean for employers.

Perhaps the most contentious issue of Brexit from day one has been free movement of persons. The Government has previously attempted to shed further light on this, confirming that EU workers will be entitled to apply for ‘settled status’ up until 2021, which would allow them to remain in the UK indefinitely. The draft agreement does reiterate a commitment to protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK and Britons living and working in the EU, with visa-free travel to EU countries expected to continue. However, free movement of persons is confirmed to end following the completion of the transitional period and the document still raises a number of questions surrounding what the rights for UK citizens will be to work across borders elsewhere in the EU.

The deal does confirm a 21-month transitional period, during which time businesses will continue to follow all EU rules and remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. As such, all decisions made by this court will be binding up until the end of this period and employees will retain the right to refer their case to the ECJ. This transition, which can be extended, will be used to conduct further negotiations in producing a trade deal that does not involve the UK remaining in the Customs Union.

Currently, UK business are able to utilise the UK’s membership of the Customs Union, which abolishes tariffs on goods traded with the EU. In order to prevent a ‘hard border’ with Ireland the UK is expected to remain in the Customs Union for the transitional period. This is good news for businesses who have previously relied on this ‘frictionless’ trade but may be frustrating for those who were hoping to begin negotiations for trade deals with companies based in non-EU countries.

The document also promises that ‘geographical indications’, certification that a product possesses certain traditional qualities due to its geographical origin, will continue to receive protection post-Brexit to assure consumers of their authenticity. Businesses that currently trade in these items, which include champagne and Welsh lamb, can therefore be assured that their goods will be protected against imitation or misuse of the product name.

It remains to be seen if this deal will go through and it is highly advisable to remain fully up to date on all developments as we approach Brexit day on March 29th next year.

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