Trade and Investment – The Illegal Migration Act; Brexit and Ireland; and The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023

October 2023

Brexit and “Man’s Search for Meaning”

First published in 1946 but updated and expanded in subsequent editions,  author-psychiatrist Viktor E Frankl’s  book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” describes his personal struggle for survival in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps and also his therapeutic treatment known as “logotherapy”. Logotherapy seeks to treat patients in enabling them to find a meaning for life and is derived from his personal experience of individuals who, if they escaped death at all,  survived their holocaust experiences better because they continued to see a meaning and purpose in their own lives as opposed to those who did not.

The book is an elegy of hope for the ages born out of the ashes of one of the World’s greatest human catastrophes, which took place in Europe and in our time.

Europe (and certainly not only Europe)  is again beset with violence and the tragedy of war – and institutions such as the EU which were meant to bring peoples together have not so far proved as resilient as they might be. Hopefully, Frankl’s “ enduring work of survival literature” , as it has been called by The New York Times, will continue to inspire people to work together for a better future for all of us.

Brexit and the Illegal Migration Act 2023

The UK’s Illegal Migration Act 2023 (“the Act”)  was passed into law on 20th July 2023 and is gradually being brought into force.

The UK think tank, “UK in a Changing Europe”,  has commented on whether the Act could have implications for the UK’s relationship with the EU and this was addressed in an article dated 15th August 2023 on the Act by Dr Joelle Grogan and Dr Alice Donald, in which it was written that “ EU officials expressed concern over the Illegal Migration Act as it passed through Parliament. Some members of the House of Lords voiced concern that the Act could breach the ECHR [ European Convention on Human Rights] and ultimately lead to the suspension of parts of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and EU”.

The article has also commented on what would be the consequences if either the Act was found to be inconsistent with ECHR or the UK Government decided to withdraw from the ECHR itself. In this context, the article points out that “the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement , an international agreement between the UK and Ireland, requires the ECHR to be part of the law in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Protocol affirmed the UK’s commitment to maintain the ECHR, and this did not change with the Windsor Framework. If the UK withdrew from the ECHR without provision for Northern Ireland, it would violate both international agreements”.

The UK Government has reportedly indicated that it will not bring the Act fully into force until after the UK Supreme Court ruling on the lawfulness of the policy to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda, which is expected in Autumn 2023.

In a press release, updated on 4th August 2023, the UK Government said that the Act “changes the law so that those who arrive in the UK illegally will not be able to stay here and will instead be detained and then promptly removed , either to their home country or a safe third country”. The updated press release describes the Act’s aims as to:

  • “put a stop to illegal migration into the UK by removing the incentive to make dangerous small boat crossings”;
  • “ speed up the removal of those with no right to be here – in turn this will free up capacity so that the UK can better support those in genuine need of asylum through safe and legal routes”;
  • “prevent people who come to the UK through illegal and dangerous journeys from misusing modern slavery safeguards to block their removal”; and
  • “ensure that the UK continues to support those in genuine need by committing to resettle a specific number of the most vulnerable refugees in the UK every year”.

Challenging times!

Brexit and Ireland

 Business in the Republic of Ireland is reportedly booming.

Ireland sees its EU membership as an advantage and not as an encumbrance – as evidenced in an interview published  by City AM ( interviewer: Andy Silvester) in its edition of 9th October 2023 with Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, the Irish Finance Minister.   The interview particularly profiled the work that Ms MacNeill has been doing to make the Irish insurance market more attractive and accessible to insurers  –  in particular, the legal change apparently introduced into Ireland in July 2023 that, according to City AM, “brought Ireland in line with England and a host of other countries on personal injury”.

Ms Carroll was reportedly positive about  UK – Irish trade relations and this is borne out by figures released by the UK’s Department for Business and Trade (“DBT”), in one of its regular factsheets, on 21st September 2023. These figures showed that total trade in goods and services ( exports plus imports) between the UK and Ireland was £85.7 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q1 ( Quarter 1) 2023, an increase of 18.1% or £13.1 billion in current prices from the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022. Of this £85.7 billion:

  • Total UK exports to Ireland amounted to £55.6 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2023 ( an increase of 19.7% or £9.2 billion in current prices, compared to the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022); and
  • Total UK imports from Ireland amounted to £30.1 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2023  ( an increase of 15.2% or £4.0 billion in current prices, compared to the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022).

According to the DBT factsheet, Ireland was the UK’s 6th largest trading partner in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2023 accounting for 4.9% of total UK trade.

The factsheet also showed that , in 2021, the outward stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) from the UK in Ireland was £70.2 billion accounting for 4.0% of the total UK outward FDI stock and that, in the same year , the inward stock of FDI in the UK from Ireland was £36.8 billion accounting for 1.8% of the total UK inward FDI stock.

Healthy-looking figures and a cause for hope in the post-Brexit era!

Another exciting prospect for UK-Ireland trade relations is the successful joint UK-Ireland bid to host men’s football’s 2028 European Championship. The UK Culture Secretary ,Lucy Frazer MP, has reportedly  forecast a £2.6 billion socio-economic uplift arising from the tournament and spread across the host nations of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Good news!

Brexit and the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023

The UK’s Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 (“the Act”) was passed into law on 26h October 2023 and follows the Economic Crime ( Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 in tackling economic crime and other reprehensible behaviours in a number of serious ways.

The Act , when brought into force, will, according to a UK Government press release issued on 26th October 2023, give the UK’s Companies House new powers which  between them would constitute “the biggest shakeup to the service in its 180-year history”. New powers are also given to other law enforcement agencies to tackle economic crime.

The UK Government press release highlights a number of these new powers and also associated responsibilities, including:-

  • Enhanced abilities for Companies House to verify the identities of company directors, remove fraudulent organisations from the companies register and share information with criminal investigation agencies;
  • Greater powers for law enforcement agencies to seize , freeze and recover crypto assets; and
  • “Groundbreaking legal reforms” which will allow the courts to dismiss “spurious lawsuits which seek to stifle freedom of speech”.

The press release further explains that “changes to public ownership registers will also close loopholes that allow corrupt actors to use opaque companies to move and hide money”.

The press release goes on that “major reforms to corporate criminal liability will also provide prosecutors with  game changing powers to hold companies criminally liable for malpractice”. In particular:-

  • “The creation of a  criminal offence, called “failure to prevent fraud”, will hold a large organisation criminally liable if it benefits from a fraud that is committed by a member of staff”; and
  • “An update to a legal principle known as the “identification doctrine” will also ensure businesses can be held criminally liable for the actions of their senior managers who commit an economic crime”.

The press release states that “ both changes remove the ability for a large company to hide behind complex management structures to evade scrutiny. This ensures a level playing field for all businesses and will help remove criminal money from the economy.”

The press release points out that “the National Crime Agency (NCA) will additionally gain greater powers which compel businesses to hand over information which is suspected to be used for money laundering or terrorist financing”. On the other hand , “unnecessary reporting by businesses will also be reduced, enabling the private sector and law enforcement to focus their existing resources on tackling high value and priority activity.”

A separate press release issued by Companies House on 26th October 2023 emphasises the four new objectives which the Registrar of Companies will need to promote when carrying out their duties, namely:-

  • To ensure that anyone who is required to deliver a document to the registrar does so ( and that the requirements for proper delivery are complied with);
  • To ensure that information contained in the register is accurate and that the register contains everything that it ought to contain;
  • To ensure that records kept by the registrar do not create a false or misleading impression to members of the public; and
  • To prevent companies and others from carrying out unlawful activities, or facilitating others to carry out unlawful activities.

The Companies House press release suggests that certain provisions of the Act are likely to come into force in early 2024, if not before,  and that others ( many of which need system development and secondary legislation before they are introduced) are likely to come into force later.

As a whole, the Act constitutes a major change in the regulatory landscape in the post-Brexit era!

Disclaimer: Nothing in the Legal Insights section and this blog is intended to provide legal or other professional advice and, if readers are interested, they should consider taking separate legal or other professional advice accordingly.