This piece of Brexit legislation is causing headaches in Westminster, says the former director of legislative affairs at No 10by Nikki da Costa / December 14, 2018 / Leave a comment
If a Brexit deal is approved by parliament, the EU Withdrawal Act, which repeals the European Communities Act and takes us out of the EU, needs to be supplemented by the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB).
The problem is one of time—it will require a momentous effort to pass this legislation before we leave. But what precisely is in the WAB, and why will it put our political system under so much strain?
The four main things the WAB will do is set out how the rights of EU citizens will be protected in UK law, legislate for the implementation period, the controversial Northern Ireland backstop, and create a financial authority to manage payments made to the EU.
If that Bill is not passed, the government will not have the power to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, and if no further action is taken, the UK would simply exit the EU with no further arrangements in place. This could cause significant disruption.
The Bill therefore must receive Royal Assent before 29th March 2019. It also cannot safely be introduced before MPs’ famous “meaningful vote” on the deal. That sets up a very tight timeframe for the passage of the legislation.
In a best-case scenario, and making the very big assumption the deal passes “first” time round, I do not anticipate that the Bill will be introduced to the Commons before the w/c 14th January. I am not sharing privileged information here, merely working the parliamentary calendar.
We now know the business for next week and that the vote on the deal will not happen until parliament returns from Christmas recess. The government has also said that it will honour 21st January as a deadline. That makes the w/c 14th January the most likely window for the meaningful vote, with the Bill following promptly on its heels.
If you introduce the Bill on Monday 21st January, you have just over two months to pass the legislation, or 36 sitting days. Bear in mind that the average bill takes between nine and 12 months to go through parliament and you begin to see the scale of the challenge.
Yet parliament will not accept waiving the legislation through. Both the Commons and Lords will want sufficient time to go through it. And parliamentarians will have expectations as…