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WHAT’S ON THE RADAR?

WHAT’S ON THE RADAR?

The CII takes a look at what’s new on the policy and public affairs front this month

QUEEN’S SPEECH

Within the Queen’s speech we heard mention of two new pieces of relevant legislation – the Financial Services Bill and the Pension Schemes Bill. The former aims to “ensure that the UK maintains its world-leading regulatory standards and remains open to international markets after we leave the EU”. This will be done by simplifying the process that allows overseas investment funds sold in the UK; implementing Basel standards to strengthen banking regulation; and securing long-term market access to the UK for financial services firms in Gibraltar.

The Pensions Schemes Bill, meanwhile, sets out to: create the legislative framework for the introduction of pensions dashboards; include rules on how pensions schemes need to provide data to dashboards; and give powers to The Pensions Regulator to respond earlier to irresponsible management of private pensions schemes, including introducing new criminal offences, with the most serious carrying a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment and a civil penalty of up to £1m.

We will monitor this legislation closely and provide you with updates as each Bill progresses.

BREXIT UPDATE

At the time of writing, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced a new deal agreed between the UK and EU negotiators, which removes the contentious backstop and instead creates a new customs zone in the Irish Sea. However, despite passing its second reading, the agreement is yet to pass through parliament, although with potential amendments it could be the first deal to receive a working majority of support.

In the statute books sits the Safeguards Act (commonly referred to as the Benn Act after its proposer Hilary Benn), designed to compel the government to seek an extension to the deadline, in order to avoid a no-deal exit and ratify a new deal, including all of its necessary legislation, in a timely fashion.

Following the first House of Commons Saturday sitting since 1982 – and the passing of the Letwin amendment to the government’s motion – the Benn Act forced the government’s hand in seeking an extension to the UK’s Brexit deadline, in order to have enough time to lay the necessary Withdrawal Agreement Bill legislation in front of parliament.

While a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill was successful and it passed second reading, a government loss on the timetable for the legislation led to the Prime Minister freezing the process of the Bill. This made it impossible for the UK to leave the EU on 31 October.

Despite some progress in certain areas, uncertainty still reigns supreme and there is still just as much likelihood of no deal at the end of this process, as there is of securing a good deal. Although the date for this has, to all intents and purposes, been deferred.

The CII still recommends preparing your businesses for any regulatory or trade changes in the coming months, and staying aware of the latest government advice on what is expected of your business, if trading with the EU.

 

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