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Further information

Many of the legal powers that allow the UK to impose and implement sanctions flow from the 1972 European Communities Act (ECA). The previous Conservative government took the view that new legal powers will be required once the ECA has been repealed. It said:

The UK needs to be able to impose and implement sanctions in order to comply with our obligations under the United Nations (UN) Charter and to support our wider foreign policy and national security goals. Many of our current powers flow from the European Communities Act 1972 so we will need new legal powers to replace these.

The previous government said:

It is not possible to achieve this through the Great Repeal Bill, as preserving or freezing sanctions would not provide the powers necessary to update, amend or lift sanctions in response to fast moving events. This would leave us in breach of our international obligations and unable to work effectively with our European and international partners to tackle shared challenges.

The new Conservative minority government takes the same view. The Queen’s Speech last month confirmed that an ‘International Sanctions Bill’ will be tabled during the current 2017-19 parliamentary session.

According to the background briefing notes that accompanied the Queen’s Speech in June, the main benefits of the International Sanctions Bill will be:

  •  To ensure that, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the UK continues to play a central role in negotiating global sanctions to counter threats of terrorism, conflict and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, as well as bringing about changes in behaviour.
  • To return decision-making powers on non-UN sanctions to the UK.
  •  To enable the UK’s continued compliance with international law after the UK’s exit from the EU.

 The main elements of the Bill will be:

  • To provide a domestic legislative framework to allow the Government to:

 o impose sanctions to ensure compliance with obligations under international law after the UK’s exit from the EU. These include asset freezes, travel bans and trade and market restrictions;

 o ensure individuals and organisations can challenge or request a review of the sanctions imposed on them;

 o exempt or license certain types of activity, such as payments for food and medicine, which would otherwise be restricted by sanctions;

 o amend regulations for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing and to pass new ones after the UK’s exit from the EU.

In April 2017 the previous government launched a public consultation exercise. This exercise ended on 23 June. An official response is expected, after which the Bill will be introduced.

Repeal of the ECA is to be done via the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which was published on 13 July. This Bill was previously known as ‘the Great Repeal Bill”.

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