Impacts of Brexit within the mandate of the Ministry of Justice

The United Kingdom (UK) has notified its intention to withdraw from the European Union (EU), following the outcome of a referendum held in 2016. The UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019, which is the date of expiry of the two-year period for negotiating the terms of withdrawal under the Treaty on European Union.

EU law on European Parliament elections and on municipal elections in Member States will not apply to the UK after the withdrawal date of 29 March 2019, regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with or without an agreement. Thus, the UK will not take part in the spring 2019 elections to the European Parliament, and Finnish citizens residing in the UK will be automatically included in Finland’s electoral register for the elections and will receive a notice of right to vote (polling card). Information on the elections is available on the elections website of the Ministry of Justice at vaalit.fi.

Withdrawal agreement and its impacts

The EU and the UK Government reached a mutual understanding on the content of a withdrawal agreement in late November 2018. Both the European Parliament and the UK Parliament must approve the withdrawal agreement before it can enter into force. The draft withdrawal agreement and other negotiation documents are available on the European Commission website.

If the withdrawal agreement enters into force on 30 March 2019 as planned, nearly all provisions of EU law will continue to apply to the UK until at least the end of 2020 under the transition period provisions in the withdrawal agreement. In the field of activity of the Ministry of Justice, this would mean that EU judicial cooperation on civil and criminal matters continue in their current form during the transition period. The current rules would apply to judicial processes under EU law until the end of the transition period, while any such processes that were pending at the end of the transition period would be completed according to the specific rules spelled out in the withdrawal agreement. Exchange of personal data between the EU and the UK would continue under current rules until the end of the transition period.

The EU and the UK plan to start negotiations immediately after the withdrawal date to reach agreements on certain matters that would apply after the transition period. One of these matters is the future cooperation on criminal matters. In certain situations, cooperation can continue after the transition period even without a specific EU-UK agreement, by virtue of existing international treaties.

Impacts of a no-deal withdrawal and preparing for them

Should the withdrawal agreement not enter into force on 30 March 2019, the UK leaves the EU without a deal. The UK would no longer participate in the EU’s judicial cooperation, and matters would be dealt with under the provisions of international treaties. In some cases, this could have a practical impact directly after the withdrawal date when the authorities deal with for instance UK-related family law matters.

A no-deal withdrawal would also mean changes to the rules on the transfer of personal data from the EU to the UK, affecting citizens, companies and public authorities alike. It is essential that for instance companies established in the EU have sufficient knowledge on the requirements for transferring personal data to the UK in a no-deal scenario. European data protection authorities are working together on this issue, and in Finland, the Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman will publish the necessary information on its website.

The European Commission has issued a Communication and a number of preparedness notices in preparation for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU with no deal.

An important consideration is the position of Finnish citizens in the UK. The UK government has published guidance on how to prepare for the event that the UK should leave the EU with no deal.

Inquiries: Katja Arenmaa (Brexit coordination within the mandate of the Ministry of Justice), email address in the format firstname.lastname@om.fi