Wednesday 21st June, 2017 saw the reopening of Parliament after the General Election and, rather than laying out the Government’s statutory programme for the next 12 months, Her Majesty The Queen announced two years’ worth of proposed legislation.
Several key areas of the Conservative Party’s manifesto were absent, but we saw for the first time what the Government was prioritising in terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union, as it announced eight new Brexit-related pieces of legislation.
- Repeal Bill: This law will repeal the European Communities Act 1972, formally completing the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. In addition, it will temporarily convert all EU laws into UK laws, and make it clear that Parliament is free to change its laws in the future without the EU’s interference.
- Customs Bill: This law will ensure that the UK moves outside the EU’s customs area, and allows Parliament to change VAT rates and excise duties as it sees fit. The law will also give the UK unrestricted control over the import and export of goods, and will be keenly watched by UK business that trade with the EU (and vice-versa).
- Trade Bill: Simply, this law will allow the UK to agree free trade deals with other countries – something which, as a member of the EU, it does not have the ability to do. We are aware that many Commonwealth member states are extremely keen to sign free trade deals with the UK at the earliest opportunity, although it is the possibility of a free trade deal (or not) with the EU that seems to occupy the media at the moment.
- Immigration Bill: It is this law that will see the end to the free movement of individuals between the EU and the UK – be prepared to queue to show your passports when arriving at European airports in the future!
- Fisheries Bill: The UK fishing industry will be delighted to see early proposals for the UK to reclaim its territorial waters and set its own fishing quotas … although don’t expect to see the French and Spanish fishing industries taking this one lying down!
- Agriculture Bill: The infamous Common Agricultural Policy will be no more post-Brexit, and it is this new law that will introduce a new system to support the UK farming industry. It is also expected to include details of an independent UK’s commitment to the environment and climate change.
- Nuclear Safeguards Bill: Leaving the EU is also likely to mean leaving the International Atomic Energy Agency, but this new law will ensure the UK continues to apply equivalent levels of nuclear safeguards at its 15 operational nuclear reactors, as well as supporting a commitment to nuclear non-proliferation.
- International Sanctions Bill: A new law that will ensure that a post-Brexit UK will continue to play a central role in terms of global sanctions designed to counter terrorism. It is also likely, much to the delight of the legal sector, to amend existing Anti-Money Laundering Regulations.
That won’t be it. Leaving the EU is far more complicated than eight pieces of legislation, but it’s a start, and it is designed to show where the UK’s priorities lie. It is interesting to note that there is no proposed legislation regarding the issue of the Irish/Northern Irish border, but undoubtedly that will follow once the Brexit negotiations have reached a sufficiently advanced stage.
And although unrelated to Brexit, there was also announced a new Data Protection Bill, which will be designed to supplement the General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into force in the UK in May 2018, notwithstanding the UK’s exit from the EU some 10 months later.
The actual text of the draft legislation will be published in due course, which will provide a clearer insight as to the mechanism of how Brexit will be achieved, and we’ll look to provide updates when that happens.