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The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act became law on 23rd January. The next step will be for the withdrawal agreement to be ratified by the European Parliament, scheduled for 23rd January.

The UK is then due to leave the EU on 31st January 2020 under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement concluded between the UK and the EU on 19th October 2019, and from that date British nationals will no longer be able to enjoy the benefits of being EU citizens.

Although the Withdrawal Agreement provides that the transition period (due to end on 31st December 2020) may be extended for “up to 1 or 2 years” by agreement before 1 July 2020, the UK government has so far ruled out any extension in the legislation implementing the Withdrawal Agreement. 

What does this mean for lawyers at our firm representing British citizens living in the EU?  We now know that British citizens who have exercised their right to reside in Italy by the end of the transition period (meaning that a valid application for residence has been made before that date) will be guaranteed the protection of Articles 9-39 of the Withdrawal Agreement, in that their rights, including those of continuing to reside and work here, will be recognised. 

We do recommend that for further details as they develop, our clients follow the campaigns of British in Europe and British in Italy, and if possible donate funds to  these groups support the work that they are doing to keep us all informed, including challenging the Italian government and British Embassy to give clarity to our future status. Further information and analysis has also been prepared by Steve Peers, a very highly respected Professor of Law at the University of Essex, in his Citizens’ rights chapter of Withdrawal Agreement 

In the remainder of this post, we consider the implications for our private clients from the UK, during the transition period, in the fields of cross-border family law, inheritance and succession law and civil litigation. 

The Withdrawal Agreement provides (at Article 127) that EU law will apply to and in the UK during the transition period, unless otherwise provided in the Withdrawal Agreement, and any reference to EU Member States in EU law will be understood as including the UK. Accordingly, very little should change between now and 31st December 2020. The UK courts will continue to apply EU law and to interpret it in accordance with case law of the CJEU. 

For the next 11 months therefore, the following EU Regulations to which the UK is a party (and notably had a significant hand in drafting) will continue to apply at least at the moment where proceedings are commenced:

Family Law

Reg. 2201/2003 – Separation and divorce proceedings – determines the correct jurisdiction for the commencement of proceedings where spouses are of a different nationality or have different countries of residence.

Reg. 4/2009 – Maintenance claims – determines jurisidiction and enforcement where a debtor and creditor are resident in different member states.

Civil litigation

Reg. 1215/2012 – Recast Brussels Regulation on jurisdiction and enforcement of civil judgments

Reg. 1393/2007 – Service of Proceedings

Reg. 1206/2011 – Taking of Evidence

The Rome I and II Regulations on the law governing contractual and non-contractual obligations will apply to contracts concluded before the end of the transition period, and in respect of events which occurred during the transition period which give rise to damages.

European Enforcement Orders  will apply in the transition period (provided that the certification as a European Enforcement Order was applied for before the end of the transition period – Article 67).

Succession Law

As the UK opted-out of the EU Succession Regulation 650/2012, there will be no impact or change in the advice we give on cross-border inheritances.  UK private international law rules will continue to apply where a succession is “opened” in the UK and the law of scission will determine the applicable law to moveable assets and immoveable assets, and therefore will depend either on the domicile of the deceased or the place in which the assets are situated. All wills made prior to Brexit will continue to be valid as before.

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