Tuesday 28 April 2020
EU-UK Future Relationship
Negotiators from the UK and the EU held discussions through video conferencing on 20-24 April 2020 for the second round of negotiations on the UK-EU future relationship.
Prior to the round both sides shared legal texts, on the basis of which there were some clarificatory discussions in order to ensure that the round was as well prepared as possible. The UK has shared the following texts: a full draft free trade agreement, and separate draft agreements on energy, law enforcement and criminal justice co-operation, air transport, air safety, civil nuclear, and social security co-ordination. In accordance with normal negotiating practice, the Government have not made these texts public, but keeps this issue under close review and would be ready to do so at a moment when it helped the negotiating dynamics.
This was a full and constructive negotiating round, with both sides adapting positively to the new remote ways of working. The round was opened by the UK’s Chief Negotiator, David Frost, and by the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, in a plenary session on 20 April. There were then discussions across all the issues and the session closed with a further plenary on 24 April.
Discussions covered all workstreams including:
Trade in good—Market access and rules of origin, trade remedies, customs, technical barriers to trade and SPS.
Trade in services—Cross-border trade in services, investment, temporary entry for business purposes, professional qualifications, professional and business services, financial services and digital.
Fisheries—Discussion on control and enforcement, conservation and sustainable exploitation, and scientific evidence.
Transport—Aviation and aviation safety, road haulage and passenger transport.
Energy—Civil nuclear co-operation, gas and electricity trading, climate change and carbon pricing.
Mobility and social security co-ordination—Including the UK’s legal text on social security co-ordination.
Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice—UK presentation of the UK Law Enforcement Treaty with detailed discussions on operational capabilities.
Thematic co-operation—Covering health security; asylum and illegal migration; cyber security; and security of information.
Participation in union programmes—General terms for UK participation in programmes, including provisions for financial contribution.
So called “level playing field “—Including subsidies, competition policy, and trade and sustainable development.
Horizontal issues—Governance arrangements, territorial scope.
Discussions showed that there was some promising convergence in the core areas of a free trade agreement, but there remain some areas where we have significant differences of principle—notably fisheries, the so-called “level playing field”, and governance and dispute settlement. Progress in these areas will require the EU to engage with the political realities of the UK as an independent state.
This Government remain committed to a deal with a free trade agreement at its core. We look forward to negotiating constructively in the next round beginning 11 May.
At Budget 2020, the Government published 11 tax policy consultations and calls for evidence. The Government are grateful for the responses to these that have already been received from stakeholders.
The Government recognise that many stakeholders are facing significant disruption due to covid-19. The Government want to give all stakeholders time to submit their views.
Therefore, the deadlines for responses to the following tax policy documents will be extended for three months, to allow stakeholders to engage fully with these documents and to contribute to the tax policy making process. However, the Government encourage early responses from stakeholders where possible, to support their continuing consideration of these issues:
Plastic packaging tax: policy design—now closing on 20 August 2020
Preventing abuse of the R and D tax relief for SMEs: second consultation—now closing on 28 August 2020
Tackling construction industry scheme abuse—now closing on 28 August 2020
Notification of uncertain tax treatment by large businesses—now closing on 27 August 2020
Vehicle excise duty: call for evidence—now closing on 3 September 2020
Call for evidence: raising standards in the tax market—now closing on 28 August 2020
Consultation on the taxation impacts arising from the withdrawal of LIBOR—now closing on 28 August 2020
Hybrid and other mismatches—now closing on 29 August 2020
Tax treatment of asset holding companies in alternative fund structures—now closing on 19 August 2020
Consultation: HMRC charter—now closing on 15 August 2020
The EU exit transition period will end on 31 December 2020. The consultation on duty-free and tax-free goods carried by passengers and the informal consultation on the VAT treatment of overseas goods will therefore continue to the existing timetable. This will provide businesses with clarity as early as possible on the policies that will apply from 1 January 2021. It will also give businesses enough time to prepare and ensure the right legislation is in place for 1 January 2021. The Government appreciate that some stakeholders may not be able to respond by the deadline, and where late submissions are received, they will take them into account as far as possible.
On 16 April the Government published a consultation on the climate change agreement scheme extension and reforms for any future scheme. The timetable for this will continue as planned, to ensure the extension of the scheme will be in place by September as announced at Budget 2020, supporting energy intensive businesses to operate in a more environmentally sustainable way.
At Budget 2020, the Government also announced they would publish a number of other tax policy documents. In the light of covid-19, the Government will consider the publication of these and other expected documents on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the impact of covid-19 on stakeholders. The Government will continue to publish the following documents over the spring and summer:
The call for evidence for the fundamental review of business rates
The consultation on further entitlement to use red diesel
The consultation on the design of a carbon emissions tax
The consultation on national insurance contributions holiday for employers of veterans
A call for evidence as part of the post-EU exit alcohol review
A summary of responses to the call for evidence on the operation of insurance premium tax
A summary of responses and government next steps to the aggregates levy review
HMRC’s civil information powers
A summary of responses to the non-UK resident SDLT surcharge consultation
A summary of responses to the call for evidence on VAT electronic sales suppression
A review of how VAT works in the public sector
The Government will delay the publication of the following documents until the autumn:
A discussion document on the wider application of tax conditionality
The response to the call for evidence on simplification of the VAT partial exemption and capital goods schemes
The consultation on whether qualifying R and D tax credit costs should include investments in data and cloud computing
The consultation on stronger penalties for tobacco tax evasion
The Government will provide more detail on the publication of the following documents in due course:
The consultation on aviation tax reform
The call for evidence on disguised remuneration schemes
The review of the UK funds regime
The consultation on the economic crime levy
The conclusion of the small brewers’ relief review
A summary of responses to the call for evidence on social investment tax relief
The Government’s position on publication of tax policy documents will be kept updated through the public consultations tracker.
Today I am launching “The Skills Toolkit”—a new online platform giving people access to free, top-quality digital and numeracy courses to help build up their skills, progress in work and boost their job prospects. The new platform enables anyone who would like to use it to grow these essential skills while they are staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives. The Skills Toolkit is a first step towards longer-term recovery, helping everyone start to build up the key skills we need.
Education and skills are key to opening up opportunities, no matter your background. The Skills Toolkit allows people to access free digital and numeracy training from some of our most prestigious learning institutions, including the Open University and the Institute for Coding. These are skills that everyone needs to thrive in the 21st century and ones that evidence suggests are increasingly in demand across almost all sectors and occupations. Our approach to designing and delivering The Skills Toolkit has been informed by experts in online learning and the courses available on the platform have been carefully selected following conversations with businesses and may be expanded at a later date.
The Skills Toolkit meets a range of needs and is open to everyone—irrespective of age, employment status or current skill level. From a bite-sized course to improve your PowerPoint skills to digital marketing and coding. The courses available support both furloughed workers who want to learn new skills and those who are currently out of work and looking to quickly build up their CV with valuable skills for a new job. Equally, the learning is there for anyone else who is keen to challenge themselves or keep their mind healthy and busy during time spent at home.
The Skills Toolkit offers employers—who are also facing unprecedented challenges—a positive offer to support and develop furloughed employees who are interested in learning from home.
We know the current situation has made home life extremely difficult for many people, and I realise that learning of any type—online or otherwise—may be far from the minds of some people at this point in time. For people who can find the time, however, learning is known to benefit mental health and wellbeing, improving self-esteem, and giving an improved sense of purpose and control. The flexible nature of the offer, which includes short, online courses that can be completed at any pace or time of the day, means that there is something available for everyone when the right time comes. I am hoping that giving the nation a taster of flexible, online learning will help drive a step-change in the way in which we all develop our skills throughout our working lives.
I want to thank all of those training providers who have made these free courses so widely available to the public. It is wonderful to see a fantastic range of organisations including firms and not-for-profit providers contributing to this effort.
The Skills Toolkit is available from today on: www.gov.uk. I urge all Members to use it and to recommend it to their constituents and to local employers so that they can encourage their furloughed workers to grab the opportunity to build skills and discover new talents.
Health and Social Care
The report of the independent inquiry into the issues raised by the former breast surgeon Ian Paterson was published on 4 February 2020. It describes significant failures in the ability of the healthcare system to detect and protect patients from the consequences of Paterson’s malpractice.
The report contains 15 recommendations, some of which go to the heart of our regulatory system and the performance management of healthcare professionals. Government Ministers undertook to study these recommendations in detail and provide Parliament with a full response within a few months of the report’s publication or indeed within three months if that was appropriate.
Our action to tackle the covid-19 crisis has unfortunately diverted resources from this work which has had to be put on hold for the present time. This will inevitably lead to a delay in the Government’s formal, written response.
I would like to assure Parliament and the public that we will resume our focus on the Government’s response as soon as these unprecedented circumstances are behind us. Also, that we remain committed to implementing considered and effective improvements in the areas set out in the inquiry’s recommendations.
In the meantime, we will continue to talk to NHS England and NHS Improvement and Spire Healthcare about the current and ongoing care of patients treated by Paterson.
Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020
On 26 March 2020, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force, detailing regulations on social distancing and business and venues closures. These regulations set out that a review of these regulations must take place every 21 days to ensure they are both necessary and proportionate. The Government completed the first review as required on 16 April 2020.
In this review it was agreed that no change would be made to the existing restrictions and that they would remain in place for at least three more weeks. Recognising the potential for harm to public health and the economy if measures were relaxed too soon, it was agreed that five conditions would need to be met before the measures are eased. These conditions are:
1) Evidence that NHS critical care capacity across the UK will not be breached;
2) there is a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rate;
3) infection rates decrease to an acceptable level;
4) supplies of PPE and testing meets future demand;
5) clear evidence that changes won’t risk a second peak in the virus.
However, a small number of minor amendments are required to clarify the regulations and ease the operation of the regulations. They relate to enforcement of the measures, and businesses and venues affected.
Publicly available Government guidance on: www.gov.uk is being updated to ensure it fully corresponds with the amended regulations. These are strict measures, but they are measures that we must take in order to protect our NHS and to save lives.
Passenger Name Record Data (EU and Japan): Council Decision
The UK has left the European Union. Before doing so the Government decided not to opt in to the Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations with Japan on an agreement for the transfer and use of passenger name record (PNR) data.
As the agreement to be negotiated will not apply to the UK it was inappropriate to opt in to the proposed negotiating mandate.
The UK’s exit from the EU means we can determine and pursue our own policy on the international transfer and use of PNR data, with Japan and other partners, which acknowledges the significance of this valuable and unique dataset for countering terrorism and serious crime subject to safeguards ensuring respect for individuals’ fundamental rights.
International Civil Aviation Organisation: Council Decision
The United Kingdom has left the European Union. Before doing so the Government decided not to opt in to a Council decision on the position to be taken on behalf of the European Union in the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in respect of the revision of chapter 9 of annex 9 (“Facilitation”) to the convention on international civil aviation with regard to the standards and recommended practices on passenger name record data.
The Council decision cited a legal base in the Justice and Home Affairs section of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union. As such the Government considered that, in line with the terms of protocol (No. 21) to the treaty, the United Kingdom’s opt-in decision applied.
Adopted as Council decision (EU) 2019/2107, the Council decision records that the United Kingdom is bound by directive (EU) 2016/681, on the use of passenger name record data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime,
“and [is] therefore taking part in the adoption of [the] Decision”.
The Government do not share this view.
In accordance with the principle of sincere co-operation, the United Kingdom shall refrain, during the transition period, from any action or initiative likely to be prejudicial to the position taken by the Council decision particularly within ICAO of which the United Kingdom is a contracting party in its own right.
Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures
Section 19(1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (the Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of her TPIM powers under the Act during that period.
The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.
TPIM notices in force (as of 29 February 2020) 5 Number of new TPIM notices served (during this period) 1 TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 29 February 2020) 5 TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period) 0 TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period) 1 TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period) 0 Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (during the reporting period) 2 Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period) 3 The number of subjects relocated under TPIM legislation (during this the reporting period) 4
TPIM notices in force (as of 29 February 2020)
Number of new TPIM notices served (during this period)
TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 29 February 2020)
TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period)
TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period)
TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period)
Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (during the reporting period)
Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period)
The number of subjects relocated under TPIM legislation (during this the reporting period)
The TPIM Review Group (TRG) keeps every TPIM notice under regular and formal review. First quarter TRG meetings took place on 2, 3, 4, 11 and 12 March 2020.
On 7 February 2020 an individual was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to 12 breaches of the financial services measure of a TPIM notice.
Sentencing Code Volume I: Report
I am today announcing the Government’s final response to the Law Commission’s report on the sentencing code, published on 22 November 2018. The final response can be found at: https://www. gov.uk/government/publications/government-response-to-law-commission-report-on-the-sentencing-code.
In May 2019 the Government issued an interim response which accepted the main recommendation of the report to take forward the Sentencing Bill and the Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill, and committed to consider its 11 secondary recommendations in further detail. Detailed responses to each of those recommendations are set out at the above link.
The Government reiterate their thanks to the Law Commission for the enormous effort that has gone into producing the report and accompanying legislation, and congratulates the Law Commission on an outstanding achievement.