9 new laws you will need to be aware of in 2021
New laws regularly come into force, and it is essential to be aware of them as there is a chance they will affect you. If you inadvertently break a law, a court will not accept the defence that you were unaware of it.
This year however we have more new laws than usual. Many of these involve replacements for European Union laws following Brexit, but there are also several new laws unrelated to this.
1. New laws on trade
Perhaps the biggest change following Brexit comes in the laws governing imports and exports between the United Kingdom and the EU, as well as internal trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
In England, Wales and Scotland, custom declarations will be required for imports from and exports to the EU, and all imports will be subject to customs duty and VAT. Certain items, including plants and live animals, will require a special licence or certificate. However, initially you will be able to choose to delay customs declarations for six months.
In the case of Northern Ireland, many EU rules will continue to apply, and trade with the Republic of Ireland will continue to be free from checks and tariffs. However, checks will be required for trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, although there will be no tariffs for most trade.
2. Changes to UK passports
From this year, the burgundy EU passports will no longer be issued in this country and will be replaced by blue UK passports. These will begin to be issued from the middle of this year, but the EU passports will remain valid until expiry.
If you are travelling to an EU country (apart from the Republic of Ireland) you will now need to have at least six months remaining on your passport. A visa may be required for a long stay (to work or study, for instance) but this will not apply to a holiday stay of ninety days or less.
3. The European Health Insurance Card has become invalid
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which allows nationals of an EU country to obtain free healthcare in other EU countries, will now no longer be available to most people in this country. However, there are certain exceptions:
- Anyone who lived in an EU country before the end of 2020 and receives a state pension or another “exportable benefit”
- Anyone who lived in the UK and worked in an EU country (or vice versa) before the end of 2020 continues with the same arrangement.
- Any national of an EU country who was living in the UK before the end of 2020
- A UK student currently studying in an EU country (a new card must be obtained which will only be valid in the country of study)
Any dependent of one of these will also still be covered by the EHIC.
4. Free mobile roaming ends
Until now, free mobile roaming was guaranteed in any EU country, but this no longer applies. Although O2, Vodaphone, Three and EE, the main UK providers, have indicated that there will be no immediate change, it would be advisable to check with your provider if you intend to visit an EU country.
However, the government has introduced a new law to safeguard UK nationals against racking up excessive amounts of roaming charges in EU countries. This includes requirements to inform you when you reach 80% and 100% of your data allowance and to check with you whether you want to spend more when you reach £45.
Another potential problem comes in Northern Ireland, where there is the possibility that phones may fix onto a signal from the Republic. In this case, providers are required to take “reasonable steps” to prevent roaming charges being applied.
5. The new immigration system
Following the end of the UK’s participation in EU free travel, a new points-based immigration system has been introduced, which will apply to nationals from EU countries apart from Ireland, along with those from Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Anyone from these countries wishing to immigrate to the UK will need to achieve 70 points under the system. Points can be acquired by:
- Having a job with skill level of at east RQF3 (equivalent to A level)
- Being able to speak English
- Having a salary that is the going rate for the job or £25,600
If the salary is between £20,480 and £25,600, extra points can be gained if the job belongs to a “shortage occupation”, such as doctor or engineer.
6. COVID-19 restrictions on travel to the EU
Aside from Brexit, the current COVID-19 pandemic is impacting travel to the EU. The UK is currently seen as a high-risk country, especially since the new variant has emerged here.
Some EU nations have unilaterally imposed restrictions on travel from the UK. The EU has called on these to be lifted, but there is no guarantee that this will happen. Until the crisis is over, it is vital to check whether there are restrictions in place for any country you intend to visit.
7. Restrictions on using mobile phones while driving
It has been illegal since 2003 to make a phone call or send a text on a hand-held phone while driving. However, since then the range of activities you can carry out on a mobile phone has vastly increased, meaning that until now it has still been technically legal to take a photograph, play a game or look at your music playlist.
This loophole is being plugged, and it will soon be illegal to use a hand-held phone at all while driving, whatever the activity. As before, a hands-free phone can still be used, as long as the activity does not distract you from driving.
8. New regulations for drones
The use of drones, both for commercial and recreational purposes, has increased vastly in recent years. However, the issue of their regulation has been controversial, especially since the incident that shut down Gatwick Airport in December 2018.
Until now, a distinction has been made between commercial and recreational use, but new UK regulations, mirroring those due to be introduced in the EU, have abolished this and instead divide drones into high, medium and low risk categories.
All categories will require registration with the Civil Aviation Authority, while high and medium risk drones will need authorisation for flights.
9. Changes to copyright laws
Copyright law is still designed primarily for print, but this is finally being updated for the digital age. The new law holds larger platforms responsible for the content they host, obliging them to get licences from the owners of the right.
The object here is to ensure that creative people, such as musicians, artists and writers, get paid for their intellectual property being used. However, this will not affect anything used for the purposes of parody or caricature — including your favourite memes.
So there you are – a quick rundown of the new laws coming into effect in 2021.
If you require legal assistance for circumstances such as moving home, personal injury or Will writing, feel free to get in touch with our Will Specialists today. Alternatively, you can visit our website to find out how we can help you.