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Public sector law: impact of conservative manifesto commitments

With the Conservatives returning to government with a clear majority we can look to their pre-election promises for an insight into what the future holds.

The manifesto entitled “Get Brexit Done: Unleash Britain’s Potential” headlines the commitment anticipated to impact on both the public and private sectors to leave the European Union. The Conservatives have resolved to reintroduce the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill to Parliament before Christmas and to leave the EU by 31 January 2020. The manifesto commits not to extend the transition period (during which EU law will continue to apply) beyond December 2020 and that a trade deal will be concluded during the course of 2020. Further pledges around this are: to keep the UK out of the single market; to keep the UK out of any form of customs union; and to end the role of the European Court of Justice.

Other commitments that will particularly impact upon the public sector are:

  • International Trade Law : Post Brexit, the increased importance of new international trade arrangements with the EU and other nations across all sectors  (while this has been the working assumption of relevant UK Government departments for the last three years), is likely to require significant extra focus and resource over the course of the next Parliament;
  • To “support start-ups and small businesses via government procurement, and commit to paying them on time”;
  • Public procurement: the manifesto commits to  “encourage the public sector to ‘Buy British’ to support our farmers and reduce environmental costs” – this would point to an intention to derivate from some of the existing EU led procurement rules;
  • State Aid: the manifesto commits to  “use government procurement to support new ideas and new companies” – again this would suggest more flexibility than has been permitted under the existing EU Treaty;
  • To “remain committed to devolving power to people and places across the UK …  [and to publishing] an English Devolution White Paper … next year”;
  • To  “reach Net Zero by 2050 with investment in clean energy solutions and green infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions and pollution”; and
  • To significantly invest in the NHS, social care, the police and infrastructure.

If the various pledges are indeed delivered as the manifesto anticipates, there is likely to be significant change ahead in the way public sector entities operate: from their service delivery priorities through to their procurement practices.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at December 2019. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms and conditions.

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