Firms urged to stay alert over Brexit

Brodies LLP chairman Christine ONeill
Brodies LLP chairman Christine ONeill
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It is just one month since the Supreme Court handed down its judgment in the Cherry and Miller cases, declaring that the suspension of Parliament sought by the Prime Minister in August was unlawful, writes Brodies LLP chairman Christine O’Neill. 

Since then there have been a number of further legal challenges, relying on more or less unusual court procedures, which are aimed at constraining the current UK government’s room for manoeuvre when it comes to Brexit. Those bringing these cases haven’t achieved quite the same degree of success as they could claim from the Supreme Court appeals, but they continue to provide new and interesting material for constitutional lawyers.

Equally, the Westminster Parliament has enjoyed a rather busier late summer than usual. Just ahead of its prorogation in September, Parliament passed the European Union (Withdrawal) (No 2) Act 2019, otherwise known as the Benn Act. That Act’s provisions came into play last Saturday following Parliament’s decision not to approve the new deal agreed between Mr Johnson’s government and the EU, but to postpone any such approval until a Bill giving effect to the deal was enacted by Parliament.

The Prime Minister sent the necessary letter requesting an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period – albeit alongside another letter explaining why he didn’t want the extension – and just three days later Parliament rejected the proposed timetable for consideration of the (new) European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill.

It would be easy to lose track of ongoing Brexit developments, and equally easy to disengage entirely from the process on the grounds that it is simply too difficult to know how (or even if) to plan for Brexit given ongoing levels of uncertainty. It would be hard to criticise that perspective.

However, weary as one might be, it remains important to stay alert and to continue to consider the potential impacts of Brexit – no deal or new deal. It is still critical, for example, to ensure that EU nationals – whether employees, colleagues or friends and family – are aware of the EU Settlement Scheme and the deadlines for applying for Pre-Settled and Settled Status.

Equally we have been briefing clients who have import and export trade with the EU on the need to have both British and European EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) numbers.

Like many Brexit-related issues, EORI numbers are not an exciting topic of conversation but getting things wrong could have a real impact on your business. So stay focused and engaged, at least for now.


Christine O’Neill is Chairman of Brodies LLP