London
29 March 2017
Reporter: Mark Dugdale

UK commits to Brexit unknown


The UK has officially pulled the trigger on Article 50 and commenced the two-year negotiation process that will end in its exit from the EU.

With the activation of Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, EU legislators will now convene to decide what positions they will take on a range of issues, from the rights of EU citizens in the UK to financial services passporting.

The Article 50 letter, which was signed by UK Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday, was handed to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, at lunchtime.

Official negotiations between the European Commission and the UK’s Brexit team are expected to commence on 29 April. The process can take no more than two years, unless the European Council approves an extension.

Membership of the EU is complex, with many aspects of UK legislation intertwined with or underpinned by regulations and directives designed in Brussels.

UK ministers will have to simultaneously negotiate the terms of the exit from the EU, lobby for and begin discussions about a new trade deal with the 27 remaining member states, do the same with every other country around the world, and begin reforming its own laws.

The mooted Great Repeal Bill will preserve EU law in UK legislation in one fell swoop, although this is still subject to the parliamentary scrutiny that almost derailed the so-called Brexit bill earlier in March.

A leaked European Parliament resolution suggested no free trade deal will be forthcoming in the next two years, and that any post-Brexit transition arrangement beginning in 2019 can last no longer than three years.

One area of negotiation will be the UK’s participation in the EU trademark system, with Brexit threatening to reduce the attractiveness of and weaken EU-wide trademarks by removing one of its biggest markets.

Kate O’Rourke, president of the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (CITMA), said in an interview: “There is likely to be legislation which enables existing EU trademarks to continue to be protected in the UK. CITMA has outlined a number of possible options for how this could be handled and ensure that protection is maintained.”

“The UK Intellectual Property Office has reiterated that no option is off the table, including what we have called ‘UK Plus’—where existing EU rights would extend to the UK.”

An in-depth examination of what Brexit might mean for EU trademarks will feature in the next issue of IPPro The Internet, which is out on 4 April.

The UK voted 52 percent to 48 percent in favour of exiting the EU in June 2016, after former Primer Minister David Cameron launched the referendum to appease eurosceptic Conservative colleagues.

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