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Fast tracking of article 50 bill should not set precedent, peers report

23 February 2017

The fast tracking of the bill to authorise the formal notice of the UK's intention to withdraw from the European Union should not set a precedent for future Brexit-related legislation, a committee of peers stated today.

Reporting on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, the House of Lords Constitution Committee said that while its usual concerns about the fast tracking of legislation were "alleviated by the brevity and simplicity of the bill", this should not be seen as setting a precedent for future constitutional bills.

In particular, the report specifically states that it should not be seen “as a precedent in relation to future measures of constitutional significance, such as the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ and other Brexit-related legislation".

Committee chairman Lord Lang of Monkton commented: “The European Union Withdrawal Bill is undeniably of significant constitutional importance. Usually we would be concerned about the fast tracking of constitutional legislation, particularly when the justification for doing so depends on a political, rather than constitutional, deadline.

“However, we recognise the political imperatives that underlie this bill. In addition, any concerns we might have about the curtailment of parliamentary scrutiny are mitigated by the fact that the bill is very short and straightforward.

“We have made clear, however, that this should not set a precedent for future constitutional legislation. The ‘Great Repeal Bill’ and other Brexit-related legislation will be much more complicated, and we would expect that Parliament will have the opportunity fully to scrutinise such important legislation.”

The peers also observe that while in terms of Miller decision in the UK Supreme Court, there is no legal requirement for the consent of the devolved legislatures to be sought in relation to the bill, the question whether such consent is required is "a matter for the Government, Parliament and the devolved institutions to resolve" – while noting the UK Government's position that the bill does not give rise to the need for any legislative consent motion.

Click here to access the committee's report.


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