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 in November and December 2017 when the Bill was debated on a line by line basis and proposed amendments were considered. Over 400 amendments were tabled.

The Bill as amended in Committee of the House of Commons was published on 21 December 2017. The Bill had its Report stage and third reading in the House of Commons on 16 and 17 January 2018.

Its first reading in the House of Lords was on 18 January 2018 and the second reading will be on 30 and 31 January 2018.

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 second reading was on 08 January 2018 and the bill is being considered in a Public Bill Committee. The Committee stage is scheduled for 30 January 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 had its first reading on 07 November 2017. The second reading is was on 09 January 2018 and the bill is being considered in a Public Bill Committee. The Committee stage is scheduled for 30 January 2018. 

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, second and third readings in the House of Commons. It has also had its first reading in the House of Lords and its second reading is scheduled for 07 February 

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 has started in the House of Lords instead of the House of Commons and completed the House of Lords stages on 24 January 2018. It had its first reading in the House of Commons on 25 January.

Brexit negotiations

The EU expects the negotiations to take place in three phases: withdrawal, future relationship and the transition phase.

Withdrawal 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 had 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 15 December 2017, the European Council announced that the EU27 leaders agreed that sufficient progress has been achieved in the first phase of the Brexit negotiations. On this basis, they adopted the draft guidelines to move to the second phase of negotiations where they will also start discussions on: a transition period and the framework for the future relationship.

Second phase: On 20 December 2017, the European Commission sent a Recommendation to the Council on additional negotiating directives for this phase of the negotiations. These include the EU's view of a transitional period, including that:

  • there should be no “cherry picking” - the UK should continue to participate in the customs union and the single market (with all four freedoms)
  • all EU law should continue to apply as if the UK were still an EU member state, including any changes made to EU law during any transition period
  • the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the EU would continue
  • but the UK would be a third country and would not be able to participate in any of the EU institutions, agencies, bodies or offices, and
  • the transition period should start when the UK exits the EU and end no later than 31 December 2020.

These directives are expected to be adopted at the meeting of the General Affairs Council on 29 January 2018.

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.