COVID-19 has understandably taken Brexit out of the headlines in recent months but there has been no change to the current transitional period between the UK and the EU which is due to end on 31 December 2020. Whilst much of the media’s focus has obviously been on trade and free movement there are other major legal and policy issues to be decided in the coming months that have not made the headlines – one such area being international sanctions and the UK’s potential role in implementing unilateral sanctions. Earlier this month the Royal United Services Institute released an interesting paper exploring the issues facing UK policy makers in a post-Brexit reality.
Sanctions may target individuals, companies, sectors of an economy or even a whole regime. They can take many forms but typically can include trade restrictions, travel bans, asset freezes and the restriction of access to financial markets.
At the apex of the current sanctions landscape are those issued by the United Nations since they are legally binding and enforceable in all UN member states – making the world a very small place for those unlucky enough to find themselves ‘on the list’. Post-Brexit the UK will of course remain a part of the UN and as a permanent member of the Security Council will no doubt continue to play an active role in UN Sanctions regimes.
However, consensus is not always possible at UN level – for example in recent times with regards to Syria and the annexation of Crimea. In these circumstances, sanctions are often implemented on a unilateral or regional basis for example by the US, the EU or the Arab League. In fact the vast majority of sanctions now take place outside the UN framework.
UK sanctions policy is unlikely to look much different than it does today at the outset given the need to maintain continuity with the current sanctions regimes but over time it will evolve. Whilst it will be open for the UK to pursue a wholly independent and unilateral sanctions policy, the effectiveness of any sanctions is generally increased through multilateral coordination around the globe. The UK will therefore seek to build upon historic alliances and forge new ones in order to effectively implement its new independent sanctions policy.
The most obvious sanctions partners for the UK, at least at the outset, will likely be the EU and the US and the UK has also already signalled a desire to work closely with fellow ‘Five Eyes’ members Canada and Australia. The UK may also seek to build relationships with other friendly partners such as Japan, South Korea and India to provide an extended global reach.
The direction taken by the UK in sanctions policy will ultimately decide whether the UK emerges as a separate and distinct sanctions regime within the global sanctions ecosystem or one that simply mirrors and cooperates with others and effectively overlaps with the US and EU.
Gherson have extensive experience in dealing with sanctions having successfully removed several individuals from the EU sanctions lists in recent years. We continue to monitor the UK’s post-Brexit sanctions strategy and should you have any questions or need advice in relation to any aspects of sanctions be it compliance or challenging designations then do not hesitate to contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.