I thought that it may be a good idea to start the New Year with a look ahead at what 2017 will have in store for us. 2016 was certainly nothing short of eventful and, just as the year was winding down, the Brexiteers and Remainers were winding each other up (at the very moment I am writing this) in the Supreme Court to decide who calls the shots on Article 50. I am not sure I understand the case. Am I the only one missing something here? If Brexit was all about giving sovereignty back to Parliament in Westminster, and a statement against unelected officials ruling over our heads, then why are 11 of the brightest and best judges now being asked to determine whether Parliament or an unelected prime minister should trigger the country leaving the EU?
The British press, never shy of getting its teeth into a new victim and stirring up a bit of trouble by mixing fact with opinion, are laying into these judges as the supposed new enemy of the people. They do so at their own and our peril: an independent judiciary is a hallmark of democratic society, just as a free press is, which carries both rights and responsibilities. I for one hope that these same judges will protect us against the worst excesses of the Snooper’s Charter, which also came into effect towards the end of 2016.
Anyway, this column wasn’t going to be about 2016 but about 2017. As you read this, we will probably have had an answer to the question, Brexit will be triggered, and the next Queen’s Speech will include a “Great Repeal Bill” to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. Far from repealing the European law that presently extends to the UK, the Bill will actually incorporate that European law wholesale into British law. The disappointing thing about Brexit really is that the government’s narrative continues not to stack up as far as I can tell.
So, to report some good news, the government’s tax-free childcare scheme is expected to be launched in early 2017. Under the scheme, working families will be able to claim 20 per cent of qualifying childcare costs for children up to the age of 12. Every little helps. Another piece of good news for consumers is that, on 15 June 2017, roaming surcharges will be abolished, which means that mobile device users will pay the same prices when travelling in the EU as they do at home.
By contrast life will get more expensive for employers who are liable for NICs (National Insurance Contributions) as the apprenticeship levy is scheduled to come into effect. The levy will be 0.5 per cent of each employer’s NICs pay bill for a tax year less an annual allowance of £15,000 (ignoring certain thresholds and exemptions). Also, the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Information) Regulations 2016 are expected to come into force at some point during 2017, requiring employers to start reporting on gender pay gap. Let’s hope that this measure will help finally to narrow the gender pay gap.
On a brighter note for businesses, the Unified Patent Court is likely to come into operation and the European Patent with unitary effect is likely to become available, which is good news for innovation. Still on IP (Intellectual Property), proposed reforms to EU trade mark law required by the 2015 Trade Marks Directive are expected to become directly applicable in member states.
If all of this sounds altogether too low-key and technical, not to say unexciting, trust Brexit to keep us all on the edge of our seats for some time to come. Happy New Year!
Gregor Kleinknecht LLM MCIArb
is a German Rechtsanwalt and English solicitor, and a partner at Hunters Solicitors, a leading law firm in Central London.
Hunters Solicitors, 9 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn, London WC2A 3QN,
TEXT: GREGOR KLEINKNECHT | PHOTOS: PEXELS.COM, GREGOR KLEINKNECHT
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Discover Germany.