The Government has published its Legislation Programme for Spring 2019. Preparing for Brexit is the central feature of the Spring Legislation Programme (which covers the period January-March 2019). The Brexit omnibus bill, the Miscellaneous Provisions (Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019) Bill, is the primary item in the Spring Programme.

The Brexit omnibus bill comprises vital legislation across 17 elements that will need to be enacted prior to Brexit in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Part 17 of the proposed Bill will provide for amendments to the Data Protection Act 2018. While the possibility of introducing a number of Brexit-related bills was considered, the Government believes that a single, standalone bill, that contains a number of parts, is the most efficient and effective way of preparing for Brexit. In addition, the Government has stated that many of the provisions will be provided for through statutory instruments that will be ready for signing should they be required in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

While Brexit is the priority, the Government has indicated that work is continuing on other legislation across all Government departments and a number of bills that are at an advanced stage will be introduced in the coming weeks, and progressed alongside those currently on the Dáil Order Paper.

Despite the need for urgent reform of the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011, following the Dwyer decision, (in which the Irish High Court held that certain sections of the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011 are incompatible with EU law), the proposed replacement legislation, the Communications (Retention of Data) Bill, is not included in the list of “priority legislation” for publication this session. Instead, the Bill is included in the list of “All other legislation Spring Session 2018”, with no clear indication of when it will be published.

The “All other Legislation” list also includes the following Bills:

  • Amendment of the Constitution (Unified Patent Court) Bill – This Bill will amend Article 29 of the Constitution to recognise the International Agreement on a Unified Patent Court. The Heads of Bill were approved on 23 July 2014.
  • Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) (Amendment) Bill – This Bill will amend various pieces of legislation in respect of electronic communications. Work on revised Heads of Bill is underway, and pre-legislative scrutiny has yet to take place. In 2016, the Department of Justice and Equality published a policy document discussing why this area of law needs to be amended (see our blog here).
  • Cybercrime Bill – This Bill will give effect to those provisions of the European Convention on Cybercrime 2001 not already provided for in national law, in order to enable ratification of the Convention.

IP-related Bills currently before the Dáil and Seanad

The IP-related Bills which may be progressed this Spring Session, include:

  • Data-Sharing and Governance Bill (Seanad) – This Bill provides a legal mechanism to facilitate lawful data-sharing and data–linking for public bodies, and defines standards for data governance and security to be followed in any data sharing or data-linking activities. The text of the Bill is available here.
  • Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018 – This Bill will introduce a series of amendments to the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000, aimed at modernising copyright and to take account of certain exceptions to copyright permitted by the Copyright Directive 2001/29/EC. The Bill aims to improve access to the courts system for IP claims, in particular to facilitate lower value IP infringement cases to be brought before the District and Circuit courts. The text of the Bill is available here.

The Government intends to prepare and publish a further legislation programme towards the end of March 2019.