On November 14, 2018, almost a year and a half after the British public voted to exit the EU, the UK and EU reached agreement on the terms of separation manifested in a draft Withdrawal Agreement. This draft text updates an earlier version published in March 2018. Subsequently, on November 22, the EU and UK published the accompanying draft Political Declaration that sets out key principles of the future relationship. On November 25, the European Council endorsed these two texts. This post summarizes the key outcomes with respect to trade in goods, the continued applicability of EU law and European Court of Justice jurisdiction, and dispute settlement during the transition period, as well as the framework for the EU and UK’s future relationship. Continue Reading The EU and UK Agree on Arrangements for Brexit Transition Period and Future Relationship Framework
On November 28, 2018, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) identified for the first time digital currency addresses associated with sanctioned persons. The newly sanctioned individuals, Iran-based Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan, were accused of converting digital currency payments into Iranian rial as part of a widespread ransomware scheme. Since 2015, the ransomware scheme (known as “SamSam”) has infected the data networks of corporations, hospitals, universities, and government agencies. According to OFAC’s announcement, the identified bitcoin addresses were used with over 40 digital currency exchangers to process more than 7,000 illicit transactions in bitcoins worth millions of U.S. dollars. Continue Reading OFAC Lists Digital Currency Addresses for First Time, Releases New Guidance
Over the past few months a number of developments have highlighted the growing pressure in favour of reactive sanctions implementation in the EU and the UK.
New EU chemical weapons sanctions regime
On October 15, 2018, the Council of the EU adopted a new programme of restrictive measures (Council Regulation (EU) 2018/1542). Where necessary to address the use or proliferation of chemical weapons, the EU is now able to impose asset freezes and travel bans on persons and entities anywhere, regardless of their nationality and location, and forbid EU persons and entities from making funds available to them.
In recent years, sanctions have become one of the issues of greatest concern for parties entering into international transactions. As a result, detailed contractual clauses designed to manage sanctions risks have become commonplace. The October 2018 judgment of the High Court in Mamancochet Mining v. Aegis Managing Agency (the “Judgment”) has highlighted certain pitfalls in the standard wording of some sanctions clauses, and should be heeded by any party seeking to contractually protect itself from sanctions risks by, for example, making its performance under the contract conditional upon the non-occurrence of certain sanctions events, or tying a termination event to sanctions. The Judgment also casts some light on the interpretation of the EU Blocking Regulation and suggests exercising contractual rights (even ones designed to ensure compliance with U.S. sanctions) does not breach the Blocking Regulation. Continue Reading Interpreting Sanctions Clauses and the EU Blocking Regulation: The High Court of England Weighs In
This Trade Summary provides an overview of WTO dispute settlement decisions and panel activities, and EU decisions and measures on commercial policy, customs policy and external relations, for the third quarter of 2018.
On September 13, 2018, the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill received Royal Assent, formalizing its application into UK law as an Act of Parliament. This date marks less than one year since the Cross-border Trade Bill, also referred to as the “Customs Bill”, was first brought before the House of Commons. The initial scope of the Customs Bill, as well as the accompanying Trade Bill, was discussed in a previous blog post. Continue Reading UK Parliament Passes Trade and Customs Legislation in Shadow of Brexit Uncertainty
On September 25, OFAC designated four additional Venezuelan officials as “Specially Designated Nationals” (“SDNs”), blocking all of their assets and prohibiting any transaction in which they have an interest within U.S. jurisdiction. The new designations target important former and current officials in the Venezuelan government who have supported President Nicolas Maduro, whom OFAC designated on July 31, 2017. The newly designated officials include: Cilia Adela Flores de Maduro, the current First Lady and former Attorney General under Hugo Chavez; Delcy Eloina Rodriguez Gomez, the Executive Vice President and former President of the National Constituent Assembly (“ANC”); Jorge Jesus Rodriguez Gomez, the Minister of Popular Power for Communication and Information; and Vladimir Padrino Lopez, the Sectoral Vice President of Political Sovereignty, Security, and Peace. In addition, OFAC also designated a network supporting Diosdado Cabello Rondon’s “key front man,” Rafael Alfredo Sarria. Continue Reading OFAC Sanctions Additional Venezuelan Officials
On August 8, 2018, the U.S. Department of State announced in a press release that in reaction to the use of the nerve agent “Novichok” in the attempted assassination of UK citizens Sergei and Yulia Skripal, the United States would introduce sanctions on the Russian Government under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination act of 1991 (the “CBW Act”). The State Department announced that the sanctions will take effect on or around August 22, 2018. Continue Reading U.S. State Department Imposes New Sanctions on Russia
On July 24, 2018, the UK Government published proposals for legislative reform that would give it significantly greater powers to intervene in UK transactions on national security grounds.
This Alert Memorandum summarizes the proposals and the possible implications.
On 18 May 2018, the European Commission announced its intention to expand Council Regulation (EC) 2271/96 of 22 November 1996 (the “Blocking Regulation”) in order to discourage European companies from complying with newly re-imposed U.S. Iran-related sanctions. On 6 June 2018, the European Commission adopted a delegated regulation to enact these changes, which will come into force by 6 August 2018 (the date when the first wind-down period for the U.S. secondary sanctions on Iran expires), provided the EU Parliament and Council do not have objections.
This blogpost considers how the Blocking Regulation will work in practice for UK and European companies, in particular in light of the UK’s departure from the European Union (“EU”) in 2019. Continue Reading The Blocking Regulation and Brexit: the Effect of U.S. Sanctions in a Changing Europe