Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Brexit Briefing - September 2017

Helen Tse and Jane Lambert














Jane Lambert

Since my last Brexit Briefing, there has been a fourth round of negotiations on the terms of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, Mrs May made a speech at the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence that has been generally warmly received, the British government and the Commission's art 50 task force published position papers on data protection and intellectual property and Helen Tse's book Doing Business After Brexit was launched in Manchester.

The Brexit Negotiations

Despite Mrs May's concessions in Florence. there is still a gap between the two sides which may prove to be unbridgeable.  It was summed up today by Michel Barnier in his speech to the European Parliament:
"We understand and share the worry of the 4.5 million British and European citizens who want to continue living and working like they did before Brexit.
This worry, which you refer to in your resolution, has been worsened by certain discriminatory measures taken by the British authorities. We are worried about this.
To effectively guarantee these rights, we need:
  1. The withdrawal agreement to have direct effect to allow British authorities and judges to rely directly on the withdrawal agreement. Without direct effect, these rights could be changed over time
  2. A coherent interpretation of the agreement on both sides of the Chanel, which only the European Court of Justice can assure."
Mrs. May went some way to allaying those fears by offering to incorporate the terms of any withdrawal agreement that guarantees the rights of the citizens of the remaining member states into English and Welsh, Scottish and Northern  Irish law, but, as I said in Has Mrs May done enough to break the Logjam? 24 Sept 2017, "it does not address the problem that a future British government could repeal any statute that incorporates a withdrawal agreement at any time." In Fourth Round of Brexit Talks: Still a Logjam 29 Sep 2017 I suggested a possible solution in the form of a constitutional convention but for countries used written constitutions that is unlikely to be enough.  I fear that the reluctance of our government to accept the interpretation of any withdrawal agreement by the Court of Justice will be the deal breaker.

Data Protection 

In its position paper on  data protection, the Commission's art 50 task force warned that "the United Kingdom's access to networks, information systems and databases established by Union law is, as a general rule, terminated on the date of withdrawal." That would be disastrous for a country with a services based economy.  As I said in Another Data Protection Act! "You're joking! Not another one!" - A Short History of Data Protection Legislation in the UK 23 Sept 2017 NIPC Law, we enacted data protection legislation because other countries passed laws that restricted the flow of personal data to us To enable the United Kingdom to safeguard personal data after the General Data Protection Regulation ceases to apply to us, the Government has introduced a new Data Protection Bill into the House of Lords (see Introduction to the Data Protection Bill 16 Oct 2017 NIPC Data Protection).

Intellectual Property

The Commission's position paper on intellectual property rights including geographical indications has been generally welcomed as far as it goes.  However, it is silent on the unitary patent which Tony Rollins regards as assent to the British position that the Unified Patent Court Agreement is an international agreement extraneous to the Treaties (see Commission Position Paper on Intellectual Property Rights including Geographical Indications 7 Sept 2017). I wish I could agree with him but I don't think I can for the reasons set out in my postscript. Fourteen countries including France have ratified the UPC Agreement which means that it could come into effect upon  British and German ratification. Unfortunately, German ratification has been delayed by mysterious proceedings in the German constitutional court. The following announcement appears on the UPC's website:
"A case is currently pending in the German Federal Constitutional Court (FCC) concerning the law passed by the German Parliament on the implementation of the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court (UPCA). This will cause delay to the German ratification of the UPCA and the Protocol on Provisional Application."
There is no indication as to how long those proceedings will last.

Asia

In response to a tweet by Lord Digby Jones that the 21st Century belongs to Asia, not the EU, I looked at Chin, India and Russia which are the three largest countries in that continent and found that they are coming together in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS and the One Belt One Road project just as we are drawing away from our neighbours (see The Shanghai Cooperation Organization 9 Sep 2017). Our IP attaché to Beijing, Tom Duke, was in the UK last month and I had the honour of chairing his talks in Barnsley and Leeds.  His visit culminated in a symposium at the IPO's London office hosted by the IPO and SIPO entitled "Future Proofing the IP System" (see UK-China IP symposium highlights importance of innovation 22 Sep 2017 .Gov.UK website).

Book Launch

Finally, Helen Tse's book, Doing Business After Brexit, to which I have contributed the chapter on IP and data protection, was launched at a meeting of the Manchester SME Club at Deloitte's Manchester office on 20 Sept 2017. I reported it in Doing Business After Brexit  24 Sep 2017 in IP North West. The photograph of us both that appears at the top of the page was taken at that event.

Further Information

Should anyone wish to discuss this article or Brexit further, call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.

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