European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details (2017-19)HL69
Publication Date 29/01/2018
Content Type ,

Following the 8 June 2017 General Election in the United Kingdom the State Opening of Parliament took place on the 21 June 2017. This marked the formal start of the parliamentary year and included the Queen's Speech which set out the government’s agenda for the 2017-19 session, outlining proposed policies and legislation.

The programme was dominated by proposed legislation dealing with the United Kingdom's planned leaving of the European Union. Eight of the twenty seven bills to be introduced were connected with Brexit.

+ European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (introduced on the 13 July 2017)
+ Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill (Customs Bill)
+ Trade Bill (introduced on the 7 November 2017)
+ Immigration Bill
+ Fisheries Bill
+ Agriculture Bill
+ Nuclear Safeguards Bill (introduced on the 11 October 2017)
+ International Sanctions Bill (introduced on the 18 October 2017)

Even though the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was introduced in July 2017 parliamentary scrutiny in practice only began in the autumn of 2017 after the summer break. Opposition parties, human rights groups and the leaders of Scotland and Wales criticised aspects of the bill and suggested they would call for substantive amendments.

During the Committee Stage of the Bill in November and December 2017 the House of Commons Library produced a series of Research Briefings on aspects / articles of the Bill:

+ The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: Clause 7 'the correcting power'
+ EU (Withdrawal) Bill: clauses 9, 8 and 17
+ The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: Devolution (Clauses 10 and 11)
+ The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: Financial provision and fees and charges (Clause 12)
+ The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: Exit day (Clauses 1 and 9)

Prior to the second reading of the bill in the House of Lords the Library of the House of Lords in January 2018 also produced a briefing guide.

Linked politically but separately the UK Government had announced on the 13 November 2017 a new Bill to enshrine the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU in domestic law.

The Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill would give legal standing to separation from the EU.

It would confirm that the major policies set out in the Withdrawal Agreement would be directly implemented into domestic law by primary legislation – not by secondary legislation under the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. This would allow for Parliamentary scrutiny and oversight of the process.The United Kingdom House of Lords Constitution Committee published a report called European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on the 29 January 2018, a day before the House of Lords was due to hold the second reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on 30 and 31 January 2018.

In its report the Committee called on the UK Government to amend the Bill. They said that legislation was necessary to ensure legal continuity and certainty when the United Kingdom left the European Union.

The Committee did not comment on the merits of Brexit, but concluded that the Bill, as drafted, had fundamental flaws of a constitutional nature. The Committee found that the Bill risked undermining the legal certainty it sought to provide, gave overly-broad powers to ministers, and had significant consequences for the relationship between the UK Government and the devolved administrations.

The Committee proposed a number of recommendations to improve the Bill to make it more constitutionally appropriate and fit for purpose, while still meeting the Government’s objectives.

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Related Links
UK: Parliament: House of Lords: Committees: Constitution Committee: News, 29.01.18: EU (Withdrawal) Bill needs amending to make it constitutionally acceptable
ESO: In Focus: Brexit - The United Kingdom and the European Union
ESO: Key Source: European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19
BBC News, 29.01.18: Brexit: EU Withdrawal Bill fundamentally flawed, say peers
The Guardian, 29.01.18: EU withdrawal bill needs major rewrites, Lords committee says
Institute for Government: Explainers: EU Withdrawal Bill: amendments and debates (February 2017 and periodically updated - latest update: 26.03.18))

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