As this piece goes to print in February 2020, the United Kingdom formally left the European Union a few days ago, on 31st January 2020.
It might be thought that this moment would see there a raft of changes to the law in this country but this is not so. As is well known, the Government has negotiated a transition period until December 2020.
So what is the transition and why is it necessary?
The transition (sometimes called the implementation period) is due to last until 31 December 2020.
During this period, the UK will remain in both the EU customs union and single market.
That means, until the transition ends, most things will stay the same. This includes:
Now transition has begun the UK will automatically cease to be a member of the EU’s political institutions, including the European Parliament and European Commission.
So, during the transition period and until 31st December 2020, while the UK will no longer have any voting rights, it will continue to follow EU rules.
As indicated above, the rules which applied internationally before 31st January 2020 continue to do so. That will remain the case until 31st December 2020 unless the UK Parliament passes special legislation to the contrary. This is very unlikely because the Government’s position has been that it wishes to deal with everything together.
There are those who say that some of the negotiations relating to trade after 31st December 2020 will take longer (possibly much longer) than 11 months to finalise.
If that is the case and if the Government wishes to strip out the trade negotiations and deal with them separately from other issues, it remains to be seen how this will affect the areas of law which relate to family issues.
The need for advice before 31st December 2020
As the year progresses it may become clearer the way in which family law in England and Wales may change after 31st December 2020. For example, there may be announcements by Ministers, with or without the agreement of the EU, as to the way in which the Government intends the law to be.
Accordingly, if you are already or believe that you may be, involved in issues where it might have to be decided whether the laws of England and Wales or the ESU apply, it would be sensible to take advice in good time. Things you may need to consider are:
The strong message for those who may be affected by the effective departure of the UK from the EU on 31st December 2020 is the need to take advice whilst there is still time.
If you or anyone you know, are affected by the issues raised above and would like more information or some preliminary, confidential advice, please contact a member of our Family team.