Results of the European elections held in the UK on 23 May resulted in a significant defeat for the ruling Conservative party and a win for the Brexit Party, a single issue political group seeking for the UK to withdraw from the European Union. Several contenders, including former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, are taking a hard-line approach to Brexit and have pledged that under their leadership the UK will leave the EU with or without a deal on Brexit day. Other candidates, such as Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Home Secretary Sajid Javid, promise to unite Brexiteers and Remainers and “deliver Brexit”. Whomever succeeds May will inherit a daunting task. For business, the latest developments mean prolonged uncertainty and an increased fear of an abrupt departure from the EU with trade on World Trade Organization terms.

In an attempt to create a majority in the UK Parliament to ratify the withdrawal agreement she negotiated with the EU, Prime Minister May intended to made certain concessions. Among them was the idea of negotiating a new and separate customs union with the EU that would take effect when the UK is no longer part of the EU internal market. The Brexit Party rejects this proposal and it may not be tenable for the next Conservative Party leader. Nevertheless, pressure to avoid a hemorrhaging hard Brexit, may yet result in further consideration of a separate customs union with the EU. It is useful then to consider what a customs union without single market access and EU membership might look like and how it could affect business.


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The European Union has just released a list of U.S. products for retaliatory tariffs following the recent announcement by the U.S. of its intent to levy additional duties on European products. The EU list covers nearly $23 billion worth of U.S. goods including tractors, luggage, frozen fish, fruit, wine, ketchup, nuts, and orange juice. 

In response to a long running dispute with the European Union (EU) over subsidies to Airbus, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has proposed additional tariffs on certain products of the EU covering approximately $11 billion in trade.  The proposed list covers 317 tariff subheadings and includes fish, cheese, olive oil, wine, leather handbags, textiles, wool

On January 15, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) revoked McDonald’s registered trademark, “Big Mac.”   The name “Big Mac” had been protected in the EU for more than 20 years under international classes 29, 30, and 42 for foods, sandwiches, and services of franchise restaurants, respectively.  Trademarks, which provide legal protections for names, among other things, can be extremely valuable assets for businesses and protect consumers in their purchasing decisions.  The January 15 decision will likely create some concern, if not confusion, for international businesses in how they might protect their brands in major markets.  McDonald’s quickly announced that it plans to appeal the decision, which is set against a backdrop of US-EU trade negotiations and a recent increased focus on intellectual property in trade negotiations.

In its decision, EUIPO found that the evidence McDonald’s provided to prove the genuine use of the name “Big Mac” in the EU, including websites, posters, packing, and affidavits from company representatives in Germany, France, and the UK, was not sufficient.   EUIPO said about the websites, “it could not be concluded whether, or how, a purchase could be made or an order could be placed.”  In addition, the regulating body took issue with brochures because there had been no evidence provided as to whom the brochures were given or how they were dispersed.  The administrative decision also discussed that although some evidence was provided of use, McDonald’s did not prove the extent of use of its mark.

The case to cancel the international fast food giant’s protection was brought by an Irish fast food chain, Supermac’s.  Patrick McDonagh, the managing director of Supermac’s, stated that the intention of the case was to “shine a light on the use of trademark bullying.” 
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