Why are there eight Brexit Bills?
Eight Brexit related Bills will be put before Parliament in the coming months. Connect’s Managing Partner, Andy Sawford, gives the low down on what the different Bills are, why they are needed, and what the prospects are for gaining Parliamentary approval.
The Repeal Bill
The Repeal Bill is the single most important piece of Brexit legislation. It will do two things. First it will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act – i.e. the Act by which Parliament consented to joining the EU. Second, it will provide for the transposition of the entire body of EU law onto the UK statute book at the point of the UK’s departure. The effect of this is that there is no legal hiatus at the point of exit, and it gives the time, over the years that follow, for these laws to be revised, if Parliament wishes.
Labour have said they will oppose the Bill, favouring instead an “EU Rights and Protections Bill”. This would protect workplace laws, consumer rights and environmental protections fully, without qualifications, limitations or sunset clauses. In practice, whether Labour pursues these points, depends on the contents of the Bill, either when it is published, or as it is amended. If Labour were to seek to defeat the Bill, this would leave them open to the charge that they are de-railing Brexit.
There will be many pieces of secondary legislation that follow on from the Bill, if it becomes an Act. For example, where current EU law refers to EU agencies, this must be replaced with references to UK authorities and agencies. The secondary legislation could prove very difficult to get through Parliament.
Customs Bill and Trade Bill
The Customs Bill paves the way for new arrangements for customs outside of the customs union, with cooperation on customs clearance and borders. The extent of co-operation will be subject to the deal reached with the EU 27.
The Trade Bill is needed to grant the power to play a full and role as a World Trade Organisation member, independent of the EUROPEAN. This includes the power to alter UK tariffs but also establishing trade defence measures, such as against unfair dumping or subsidies.
The Immigration Bill is needed to give effect to changes in the law after free movement with the EU ends, and assuming that there are special provisions for EU citizens currently living in the UK, and UK citizens living in the EU 27.
Agriculture Bill and Fisheries Bill
On Agriculture and Fisheries, the UK will need to devise and implement its own policies to replace the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy and Common Fisheries Policy. These are complicated areas of law to untangle which involve horse trading with the EU 27 and international dialogue.
International Sanctions and Nuclear Safeguards Bills
The bills on International Sanctions and Nuclear Safeguards stem from the UK’s withdrawal from EU’s common foreign and security policy and Euratom, the body that regulates nuclear energy.
Prospects for approval
Whitehall has been working on these Bill for several months, although it is a difficult task, and the skill and capacity of Whitehall’s legal draftsmen and women is being put to the test. There may also now be some revisions being made, given the unexpected parliamentary arithmetic, to account for the realpolitik of getting the bills through parliament. There will be something of a guerrilla war on all these bills, with various amendments being made and the government losing some votes. Ultimately however, when it comes down to the final votes in the Commons, the Government can reverse all amendments, if they can command a majority to vote the Bills through. That is why the deal that the Conservatives have now struck with the DUP is so vital for the Government.
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