Brexit: UK legislation: recent developments

EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018

On 13 July 2017 the Repeal Bill - then called the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - was introduced into the House of Commons. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill received Royal Assent on 26 June 2018 becoming the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (the EUWA).  The EUWA establishes the legislative framework for the UK's scheduled withdrawal from the EU on exit day.


  • repeals the European Communities Act 1972 on exit day
  • converts EU law as it stands at the moment of exit into UK law before the UK leaves the EU, so that the first day following exit does not place the UK in a legal vacuum
  • gives ministers powers to make secondary legislation, including temporary powers to allow corrections to be made to laws that would otherwise no longer operate appropriately once the UK has left the EU
  • gives the UK Parliament the right to approve the Brexit deal, and
  • deals with the scope of devolved decision-making powers.

On 11 April 2019, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Exit Day) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 were made by the government. These regulations amend the definition of exit day in the EUWA for the second time. (The first amendment was made in March 2019 by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Exit Day) (Amendment) Regulations 2019.) Exit day is now defined as 11.00 pm on 31 October 2019, which reflects the UK and EU's second agreement to extend the Article 50 period.

The government has been using the powers in the EUWA to amend primary and secondary legislation so that this functions properly on and after exit day and has published numerous Brexit-related Statutory Instruments. The government has estimated that around 800 pieces of secondary legislation will be required.

UK implementation of draft Withdrawal Agreement

The draft Withdrawal Agreement sets out how the UK will leave the EU on exit day. (See “Brexit negotiations: recent developments” for more information on the negotiation process.)

On 24 July 2018, the UK government released a White Paper on legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU. This provides further detail on how the government intends to implement the Withdrawal Agreement (if agreed) into domestic law. An EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill will have to be introduced into Parliament as UK legislation is needed to implement the Withdrawal Agreement. The White Paper also notes that, if the transition period is agreed, it will amend the EUWA so that EU law continues to apply during the transition period and will defer the conversion of EU law into UK law until the end of the transition period.

Other Bills/Acts

There are also other bills and acts relating to the customs regime, trade policy, immigration, fisheries, agriculture, nuclear safeguards and international sanctions.

Customs regime

On 09 October 2017, HM Treasury released a White Paper setting out its plans for legislating a new Customs Bill to ensure that the UK will retain the ability to implement VAT, customs and excise duties post-Brexit. See Brexit: Customs Bill for more information. The Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill. On 13 September 2018 the Bill received Royal Assent becoming the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018.

Trade policy

On 09 October 2017, the Department for International Trade published a White Paper that establishes the principles that will guide future UK trade policy as well as laying out the practical steps that will support those aims. The Trade Bill 2017-2019 was introduced to Parliament and completed its Commons stages on 17 July 2018. It completed the House of Lords stages on 20 March 2019 and will now go to the Commons for consideration of the Lords amendments.

Nuclear safeguards

The Nuclear Safeguards Bill received Royal Assent on 26 June 2018 and became the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018. The Act will bolster the roles and responsibilities of the UK’s nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), once the UK leaves Euratom.

International sanctions

The Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill has been agreed to by both Houses and it received Royal Assent on 23 May. The Bill is now the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. The Act gives the UK the necessary legal powers to continue to implement sanctions post-Brexit, including maintaining existing sanctions regimes currently imposed through EU law, and providing the necessary legal underpinning for the UK to decide when and how to take action against new threats.


The Agriculture Bill 2017-2019 was introduced to Parliament and had its first reading in the House of Commons on 12 November 2018. It had its second reading on 10 October 2018. The bill completed its committee stage on 20 November 2018. It will now have its report stage and third reading on a date to be announced.

This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.