Brussels Agenda - September 2017

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August”, Irish novelist Edna O’Brien tried to convince us, “is a wicked month”. There was a time indeed when the month passed was as dull as a Brussels summer; so bereft of news that in Britain it was called the ‘Silly Season’. (The Dutch, for reasons unexplained, opted instead for Komkommertijd - ‘Cucumber time’).  Alas, such innocence is long gone, swept away by the winds of Brexit and Trump. Thus far in August 2017 we have seen White Supremacists march in the US, terrorist attacks in Paris and Barcelona and a twitter spat tending towards nuclear war.

That being said, certain politicians have bravely attempted to maintain a certain lordly indifference to calls for their profession to be a 24/7 kind of one. In Brussels, President Tajani of the Parliament appealed to the “the principle of loyal cooperation among the European Institutions” when requesting that the Commission not send over any business before September. Alas, no such defence was open to David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, forced to decline a summons from Lord Jay of Ewelme to give account of himself and his department before the Lords’ EU committee, as the date proposed “…[fell] during the summer recess.”

Foremost in their Lordships’ minds must have been the pending third round of negotiations concerning the exit process. Here a flurry of activity erupted in the past couple of weeks, as proposals addressing the substantive matters start to gain shape. To that end, from the UK side, we have seen details come forward on its proposals for the Northern Ireland border, the Customs Union and a statement concerning a transitional agreement. Furthermore, The Enforcement and Dispute Resolution: A future partnership paper was published on 23 August which sets out the UK’s approach to the issues of enforcement and dispute resolution and what its objectives are. Another welcome publication for us has been the Judicial Cooperation in Civil and Commercial Matters.

There is still no paper, however, on settlement or calculation of the financial obligations, which remain, without doubt one of the primary concerns. As such the question remains as to whether these proposals as a whole are, firstly, acceptable to the EU-27, and, secondly, robust enough to meet the threshold of ‘sufficient progress’ laid out in the Council negotiation mandate that would allow the Brexit talks to progress further.

On a more international scale, we also have articles this month looking at the proposals for a multilateral investment court, at the potential impact of a UK-USA trade deal on consumer standards, and at the concept of ‘frictionless trade’, as well as some more detailed assessments of the new General Data Protection Regulations and proposed changes to the supply of digital content and the online sale of goods.

Lastly, we would like to say goodbye to Stuart Brown, whose six month seat at the Brussels office has now come to an end. Stuart, who worked on consumer protection, access to justice and equality, will now be returning to London to take up his first post-qualification position. We thank him for his hard work with us, and wish him every success in his new role. Likewise, Arfah Chaudry will be moving on to pastures new, after doing sterling work on data protection and on coordinating between the Law Societies and the CCBE. We wish her luck with her new role, but as she is staying-on in Brussels, we insist that she not be a stranger!

At the same time, we welcome Eoin Lavelle, formerly of the Irish Permanent Representation in Brussels. Eoin will be filling the vacancy of Internal Market Policy Advisor, taking up the position at a critical and challenging time. We will also be welcoming our three new trainees, Tamasin Dorosti, Caitlin Allan and Harriet Diplock who are joining the office this month from their respective law firms in England. 

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The Law Societies' Brussels Office monitors developments and represents the profession in negotiations with the European institutions.

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