The economic turmoil caused by lockdown measures combined with uncertainty over Brexit has been said to create a ‘perfect storm’.
This article is taken from July's public matters newsletter. Click here to view more articles from this issue.
Please note: the information contained in our legal updates are correct as of the original date of publication
The Coronavirus pandemic has redirected public attention away from Brexit to a revised source of news updates. However, the government remains of the position that Brexit will proceed as described in their 2019 manifesto. The transition period will end on the 31st December 2020, with or without an effective deal.
The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 reflects this commitment and prohibits the government from agreeing to an extension beyond the end of this year. Despite this Parliament still cannot bind itself and the option to amend the act to allow for an extension request still remained. And indeed, this option has remained throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
But now the position is cemented. The withdrawal agreement itself states under article 132 that an extension cannot be granted any later than 30 June 2020. Therefore, at present, the situation truly is deal or no deal. Such a polarised stance in light of the delays caused by the pandemic will no doubt heighten anxieties.
From the beginning of lockdown measures, logistics of the Brexit process were impacted. Talks which were scheduled on the 18-20th March were cancelled and following this there has been progression only by video conferencing. Delays must also have arisen from key players having to wrestle with the virus. The chief negotiator from the UK was forced to self-isolate and his EU counterpart actually caught the virus. Not to mention the Prime Minister’s own admittance to hospital and eventual intensive care.
More recently atmosphere around progress has been mixed. Michel Barnier’s statement on Round 4 of the negotiations on 4th June was not positive and this is reflected simply in his statement “the truth is that there was no substantial progress”. Subsequently a new programme of intensified negotiation, to start on 29th June, has been agreed. Diplomats have also reportedly identified a shift in mood following the Prime Minister’s virtual summit with EU chiefs.
However, in the meantime the UK remains subject to EU rules and consequently to their policy approaches being taken with regards to coronavirus. For example, the various Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBIL) schemes required approval from the European Commission. You can read more about CBIL and other financial support packages here.
For Brexiteers, such requirements for approval could be a motivating factor to ensure the 31st December 2020 deadline is met. They represent simply another restriction on sovereignty. Indeed, this is somewhat exemplified by the UK’s current inability to participate in the decisions being made. Conversely, the shared difficulties arising from the pandemic could invoke a more unifying sentiment and inspire solidarity between nations.
This sentiment could be reflected in the upcoming negotiations.
Although that sentiment has not been reflected during the pandemic, as seemingly reflected in the UK government’s decision to not participate in the EU’s Joint Procurement Agreement. The Agreement encouraged a collaboration in procuring vital medical equipment to fight the pandemic. The decision has been subject to some scrutiny by the media, of which the government’s response has been mixed. But whether it was a political or economic decision or otherwise, the Agreement was still a means to take part in an EU effort to combat the pandemic.
This more independent approach will be increasingly difficult to justify when applied to subsequent economic recovery. The economic turmoil caused by lockdown measures combined with uncertainty over Brexit has been said to create a ‘perfect storm’.
To illustrate, following limitations placed on global trade to stop the spread of the virus companies will be desperate to revive international activity. And if during this crucial recovery time the government mandated the closure of easy access to the single market, transnational businesses would quickly become frustrated.
Similar issues may arise with leisure travel. It would not be unreasonable to predict a boom in holidays following the re-opening of borders and relaxing of quarantine measures. Lockdown fatigue combined with money saved from the closure of outlets such as restaurants and bars will likely cause an onset of holiday travel. Pursuing a policy of more restrictive travel from the UK into the EU (and vice versa for the tourism industry) will not garner much public support.
Following the end of lockdown measures, the government will have to balance these and other shorter-term considerations against their much longer-term vision of a UK outside the EU.
Law firm Browne Jacobson has collaborated with Wiltshire Council and Christ Church Business School on the launch event of The Council Company Best Practice and Innovation Network, a platform which brings together academic experts and senior local authority leaders, allowing them to share best practice in relation to council companies.
In the Autumn Statement delivered on 17 November, rises to the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates were announced, to take effect from 1 April 2023:
Announced in September but scrapped on 17 November the investment zone proposals were very short lived. The proposal has now morphed into the proposal for a smaller number of clustered zones earmarked for investment.
Settlement agreements are commonplace in an employment context and are ordinarily used to provide the parties to the agreement with certainty following the conclusion of an employment relationship. There are already restrictions on the extent to which personal injury claims can be settled by a settlement agreement. There have also been numerous consultations about the use of non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality clauses, particularly where allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination have been raised. In any event, it is clear that settlement agreements should not be used to prevent an employee from raising a protected disclosure.
On 2 November 2022, the Supreme Court handed down its judgment in the much awaiting case of Hillside Parks Ltd v Snowdonia National Park Authority  UKSC 30. The Court’s judgment suggests that the long established practice of using drop-in applications is in fact much more restricted than previously thought. This judgment therefore has significant implications for both the developers and local planning authorities.
National law firm Browne Jacobson has advised long standing retail client, Wilko on the sale and leaseback of its Nottinghamshire distribution centre in Worksop to logistics specialist DHL for £48m.
In ‘failure to remove’ claims, the claimant alleges abuse in the family home and asserts that the local authority should have known about the abuse and/or that they should have removed the claimant from the family home and into care earlier.
Across the UK, homelessness is an urgent crisis, and one that is set to grow amid the rising cost of living. Local authorities are at the forefront of responding to this crisis, but with a lack of properties that are suitable for social housing across the UK, vulnerable individuals and families are often housed in temporary accommodation.
Updates include UK Shared Prosperity Fund, contracts, Subsidy Control Bill, data controller liability, Government Covid-19 procurement and Highway Code revisions.
The complex and rather nebulous transitional subsidy control regime set out in the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement and the UK’s wider international commitments has made it difficult for public authorities and those working with them to proceed with certainty where subsidies are involved.
Investment zones have been introduced by the Conservative party to get the United Kingdom (UK) ‘working, building and growing’. They are to be designated sites which provide time-limited tax incentives, streamlined planning rules and wider support for local growth to encourage investment and accelerate the development of housing and infrastructure that the UK needs to drive economic growth. Processes and requirements that slow down development will be stripped back with the intention of attracting new investment.
In a judgment handed down yesterday the Supreme Court has affirmed that a so called “creditor duty” exists for directors such that in some circumstances company directors are required to act in accordance with, or to consider the interests of creditors. Those circumstances potentially arise when a company is insolvent or where there is a “probability” of an insolvency. We explore below the “trigger” for such a test to apply and its implications.
Created at the end of the Brexit transition period, Retained EU Law is a category of domestic law that consists of EU-derived legislation retained in our domestic legal framework by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. This was never intended to be a permanent arrangement as parliament promised to deal with retained EU law through the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill (the “Bill”).
It is clear that the digital landscape, often termed cyberspace, is a man-made environment, in which human behaviour dominates and where technology both influences and aids our role in it — through the internet, telecoms and networked computer systems, which are often interdependent. The extent to which any organisation is potentially vulnerable to cyber-attack depends on how well these elements are aligned.
A few weeks ago we brought you news that following the Government’s mini-budget it was confirmed that the off-payroll working rules (known as “IR35”) put in place for public and private sector businesses from 2017 and 2021 would be scrapped from April 2023.
Three months on from the commencement of the new statutory Integrated Care Systems (ICS) Anja Beriro and Gerrard Hanratty reflect on the main themes and issues that have come from the new relationship between local government and health.
The Supreme Court has unanimously dismissed the BTI v Sequana appeal and reviewed the existence, content and engagement of the so-called ‘creditor duty’; being the point at which the interest of creditors is said to intrude upon the decision-making of directors of companies in financial distress.
The Procurement Bill (the Bill) has now been with us for about four months, during which time there have been a huge number of amendments proposed in the House of Lords (circa 320). Lately, there has been less mention of it — unsurprising, really, given everything else going on in politics recently — but here’s a summary of some of the key issues and themes so far.
Browne Jacobson has been named as a supplier on Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) Public Sector Legal Services Framework on Lot 1a – full-service provision (England and Wales) and Lot 2a – general service provision (England and Wales).
Browne Jacobson has been ranked as a Top Tier law firm in 25 key practice areas in Legal 500 UK 2023, the independent directory of comparative law firm performance. The firm also continues to underpin its status as one of the leading law firms in the East Midlands region with 16 Tier 1 rankings.
Welcome to our September edition of Public Matters, our monthly round-up of legal updates, news and insights for the public sector.
Since the UK left the EU and are now able to move away from the EU data protection regime, the UK government have implemented a national data strategy with the aim of reducing the burden on organisations but maintaining a high data protection standard.
The Chancellor’s recent mini-budget provided a significant announcement for business as it was confirmed that the off-payroll working rules (known as “IR35”) put in place for public and private sector businesses from 2017 and 2021 will be scrapped from April 2023.
Devolution is the transfer of powers in areas like transport, housing and skills in England and since the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 has been a much-discussed topic.
It was reported in May 2022 that the BMW-owned manufacturer had been forced to put a temporary stop on the production of all manual transmission vehicles due to the global semi-conductor shortage and the war in Ukraine. Mini stated that the move was made in order to "ensure production stability".
In this article we look at local authority companies and whether they are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. And for those that are, what information are they legally obliged to submit.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has published a consultation on proposals to require Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) administering authorities (AAs) in England and Wales to assess, manage and report on climate change risks.
The concept of Legal Project Management (“LPM”) is increasingly relevant to the delivery of legal services, both in-house functions and private practice law. This is unsurprising, LPM is crucial if lawyers are to add value by controlling budgets, communicate pro-actively on risk mitigation and costs, and manage time by resourcing to deal with pinch points in the project.
The Department for Education (DfE) have announced that the conversion of Donisthorpe Primary School in Leicestershire on 1st September marked the 10,000th academy conversion.
Browne Jacobson has bolstered its commercial practice in the UK with the appointment of commercial contracts and international trade specialist, Emma Roake, into its City-based London team.
Welcome to our August edition of Public Matters, our monthly round-up of legal updates, news and insights for the public sector.
On 31 August 2022, the Court of Appeal handed down the Judgment in respect of the appeal case of HXA v Surrey County Council and YXA v Wolverhampton City Council .
Browne Jacobson’s national private equity (PE) lawyers have advised leading mid-market PE investment firm, Palatine Private Equity (Palatine) on its exit from CTS Group, the fast-growing specialist in testing, inspection and geoengineering consulting services to the construction and infrastructure sectors.
Browne Jacobson’s corporate finance lawyers have advised leading mid-market private equity firm, LDC and management on the sale of specialist managed IT services provider, Littlefish to Bowmark Capital.
This month, HM Treasury issued a consultation on Administrative Control Process for Public Sector Exits with draft guidance. They’re proposing to introduce an expanded approvals process for employee exits and special severance payments, and additional reporting requirements. If approved, the proposals will impact public sector bodies and those that do not have a specific right to make exit payments.
The focus on the Levelling Up agenda and the availability of grant funding, means there are numerous important regeneration schemes actively being pursued across the country. With ever-escalating project and building costs, in many cases, applications that were made for grant funding were based on costs contingencies that have already been exceeded.