Brexit: UK legislation: recent developments

EU Withdrawal Act

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 has received Royal Assent, on 26 June 2018 becoming the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The Act will establish the legislative framework for the UK's scheduled withdrawal from the EU on 29 March 2019. The government has started using the powers in the Act to amend primary and secondary legislation so that this functions on and after exit day. The government has estimated that around 800 pieces of secondary legislation will be required.

This Act:

  • repeals the European Communities Act 1972 on the day the UK formally leaves the EU
  • 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, and
  • creates 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 and to implement a withdrawal agreement.

The Act also has significant effects on the current scope of devolved decision-making powers. The Scottish parliament has not yet consented to these.

UK implementation of draft Withdrawal Agreement

The draft Withdrawal Agreement, which is being negotiated with the EU, will set out how the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019. The draft agreement includes the terms of transitional arrangements, under which most EU law would continue to apply to the UK until 31 December 2020. If there is no withdrawal agreement, there will be no transition period, and EU law will stop applying to the UK at 11pm (UK time) on 29 March 2019.

If, by 29 March 2019, the UK and the EU do not conclude a withdrawal agreement (and there is no extension of the Article 50 period, and the Article 50 notice is not revoked), the UK will still leave the EU under Article 50, but without an agreement to govern the terms of withdrawal (the “no-deal“ scenario).

On 24 July 2018, the UK government released a White Paper on legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU. This White Paper provides further detail on how the government intends to implement the Withdrawal Agreement (once agreed) into domestic law.

Other Bills/Acts

There will also be other bills 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 had its first reading in the House of Lords on 18 July 2018 and its second reading on 11 September 2018. The Committee stage, which is a line by line examination, is yet to be scheduled.

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.

Brexit statutory instruments (SIs)

The government will also publish a large number of SIs in preparation for the UK's withdrawal from the EU on 29 March 2019.

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.