Brexit: recent developments

Withdrawal Bill

On 13 July 2017 the Repeal Bill - now called the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - was introduced into the House of Commons and has had its first and second readings. The Bill was considered in a Committee of the whole House of Commons on 14, 15 and 21 November and 04 and 06 December 2017 when the Bill was debated on a line by line basis and proposed amendments were considered. Over 400 amendments have been tabled.

The Committee stage is scheduled for eight days of debate in total and the final days of this stage are 12,13 and 20 December 2017.

This Bill will:

  • repeal the European Communities Act 1972 on the day the UK formally leaves the EU
  • convert 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
  • create 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, and
  • maintain the current scope of devolved decision-making powers in areas currently governed by EU law.

See The Repeal Bill: A profound change to the English legal system for an outline of the key provisions of the Withdrawal Bill as they stand; looking at the timing of the Bill and how it will convert the Acquis into English law. We identify challenges that all lawyers will face on 01 April 2019 and some unanswered questions.

Other Bills

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 aWhite 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 2017-2019 was introduced into Parliament (and had its first reading) on 20 November 2017. The date for the second reading is not yet known.

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 had its first reading on 07 November 2017. The date for the second reading is not yet known.

Nuclear safeguards

The Nuclear Safeguards Bill, which will bolster the roles and responsibilities of the UK’s nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), once the UK leaves Euratom, was introduced into Parliament on 11 October 2017. The bill has had its first and second readings and Committee Stage (without amendment) and will be considered at Report Stage next. The date is not yet known.

International sanctions

The Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill was introduced to Parliament (and had its first reading) on 18 October 2017, following a public consultation on the measures. The bill will give the UK the necessary legal powers to continue to implement sanctions post-Brexit, including the maintaining of 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 bill had its second reading for 01 November 2017 and was considered in Committee stage on 21 and 29 November 2017. The next dates scheduled for the Committee Stage are 06 and 12 December 2017.

Brexit negotiations

The EU expects the negotiations to take place in three phases: withdrawal, future relationship and the transition phase. The Brexit negotiations on the withdrawal phase started on 19 June 2017. The second, third, fourth and fifth rounds of negotiations were in July, August, September and October respectively. On 03 October 2017, the European Parliament adopted a non- legislative resolution noting that it did not believe that sufficient progress had yet been made on the three key issues of: citizens’ rights, the UK’s financial settlement and the Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland border.

On 20 October 2017, the European Council concluded that sufficient progress has not yet been achieved in Brexit negotiations on the withdrawal matters (phase one) to begin discussions on the future relationship phase (phase two). The European Council said it would reassess the state of progress at its next meeting on 14-15 December 2017, but meanwhile invited the Council of the European Union (Council) and European Commission to start internal preparatory discussions for phase two.

The sixth round of talks was held on 09 and 10 November 2017.

On 08 December 2017, President Juncker announced that the EU Commission had formally decided to recommend to the European Council that sufficient progress has now been made on the strict terms of the divorce to move to the second phase of the negotiations. The European Council will decide whether that is the case at its meeting on 14-15 December 2017.