As the UK prepares for the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of 2020, many companies and sectors are looking to newly published legislation from the UK Government to ensure that UK law is compatible with those elements of EU law that we are retaining.

Of particular interest to UK, exporters will be the Common Rules for Exports (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, which replace EU Regulation 2015/479 on the common EU rules for exports. While the Regulations set out the basic principle that export of goods from the UK are not subject to restrictions on quantities, they also set out the procedure for "protective measures" (i.e. restricting exports) where a critical situation (such as a shortage) could arise in the UK.

The Regulations set out the procedures to be followed when UK interests are affected by a shortage of a particular product.

The new UK rules, for the most part, are a copy of the original EU Regulation and provide procedures to be followed in the event of a shortage of a particular product which may lead to a critical situation for supply of that product in the UK or another country which the UK has an interest in protecting (for example, a country that relies on the UK supply chain).

The existing common EU rules on exports have been used as recently as this spring to deal with shortages in PPE in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In March, an implementing regulation was used to require that certain PPE (protective glass and visors, gloves, protective garments, mouth-nose protective equipment and face shields) had to be authorised by EU countries' competent authorities before they could be exported outside the EU.

Those restrictions had the purpose of ensuring adequate supply of PPE within the EU and to countries dependent on EU supply chains and certain overseas territories- for example, countries that were part of the European Free Trade Association were exempted along with Andorra which is strongly dependent on EU supply chains and certain overseas island territories in the Atlantic, Antarctic, Arctic, Indian and Pacific Oceans and the Caribbean with historic constitutional links to EU member states.

Under the new British rules, as is the case under the original EU Regulation, while the UK can take protective measures in its own interests, it must have due regard for its international obligations

UK exporters will be relieved to hear that the new legislation preserves the same basic principle from the original EU Regulation – that the export of products from the UK to other countries is not subject to quantitative restrictions and there is a procedure in place for taking protective measures in the event of shortages of a particular product.

There has also been some simplification of the procedure contained in the new legislation – gone is the requirement to provide market trends and statistical analysis to the EU and its member states before deciding whether to take action on a product shortage. That power now lies with the UK Government and, depending on how the procedure is used in practice, could lead to swifter intervention when the UK’s interests are affected by product shortages.