There are, currently, six separate pieces of legislation going through Parliament relating to Brexit … and that’s not including either the legislation that might (depending on the Supreme Court’s decision) be needed to trigger Article 50, nor the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ that will detail how EU regulations will be applied in the UK after Brexit. There is no guarantee that all, or any, of these Bills will actually become law, but they do give an interesting flavour of Parliament’s key issues.
The first is, possibly, the most interesting of the bunch – the Withdrawal from the EU (Article 50) Bill, introduced by pro-Brexit Conservative MP, Peter Bone. His Bill is simple and, if passed, would force the Government to give notice to leave the EU by no later than 31st March 2017. Why is that important? Because the Bill would be decisive, and would prevent UK or EU judges from interfering in the process. The Bill is expected to be debated in Parliament on 16th December, although its prospects of successfully emerging from the other side are slim.
The text of the other five Bills has not yet been published by Parliament, so we’ve got no insight into the detail.
Workers’ Rights Bill
Proposed by Great Grimsby’s pro-EU Labour MP, Melanie Onn, the Bill is intended to secure the same rights for UK workers after Brexit as they benefitted from beforehand, with specific mention to guaranteeing workers’ rights under the TUPE Regulations. The Bill does not extend workers’ rights, or grant them anything more than they’ve already got – it merely seeks to ensure that Brexit does not cause workers to lose any of the existing rights that originally derived from EU law. The Bill is due to return to Parliament for a debate on 13th January.
UK International Trade Agreements Bill
Another pro-EU Labour MP, Swansea West’s Geraint Davies, has proposed a new Bill that would require the Government to submit proposed trade agreements to Parliament for approval. The media is awash of stories regarding a UK/US trade agreement following Donald Trump’s election, with a number of Commonwealth countries reportedly keen to be the first to ‘do a deal’ with the UK in terms of bilateral trade. This Bill, if it was to become law, would prevent the Governmental from signing any trade deal without approval of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Bill is due to be debated by MPs on 2nd December.
Terms of Withdrawal from EU Bill
Once the Government has decided upon the terms of its exit from the EU, this Bill would require the Government to hold a vote in Parliament, allowing MPs a stark choice between accepting the Government’s proposed exit route, or deciding to remain a member of the EU. This is another brainchild of Geraint Davies, and is due for discussion in Parliament on 20th January. It appears to ignore the potential difficulty that the Government cannot set out its exit plan until it has negotiated with the EU, and the EU won’t allow the UK to negotiate until Article 50 is triggered, and hence this Bill can only work on the assumption that the UK can withdraw notice under Article 50 … and that’s something the EU has denied. We cannot see this Bill progressing too far through Parliament.
EU Citizens Resident in the UK Bill
Another pro-EU MP, the Liberal Democrats’ Tom Brake, has proposed a Bill that, if passed, would ensure that EU citizens residing in the UK at the time of Brexit would have the right to stay in the UK. This is undoubtedly something that the Government will have to carefully consider, particularly if it wishes to secure a similar right for UK citizens living in the EU. This Bill isn’t due for debate until 24th March, but will probably attract more cross-party support than the others in this article.
EU Information Bill
Finally, a Bill proposed by the House of Lords, and which is due to be debated by peers at some future, as yet undetermined date. The Bill is relatively simple, and requires all public buildings to display information and statistics relating to the EU (including its purpose, scope, infrastructure and decisions), as well as the setting-up of a designated website to host the same information. The Bill also incorporates into law a right for the EU flag to be flown alongside the UK national flag on governmental and local authority buildings.
And as interesting as all that may be, it really is the Bill that will trigger Article 50 (could that be Peter Bone’s Withdrawal from the EU (Article 50) Bill?), and the ‘Great Repeal Bill’, that will occupy the majority of Parliament’s Brexit-related time between now and … whenever the Government does finally trigger Article 50. And regardless of your view on Brexit – good, bad or indifferent – it is this legislation that will really signal the start of the legal process for extricating the country from the Union.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.