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Brexit legislation will impose huge burden, Institute finds

21 March 2017

Up to 15 new bills, in addition to the so called Great Repeal Bill, could be required to deliver Brexit, according to new research by the Institute for Government (IfG).

A report from the Institute, entitled Legislating Brexit, warns that Brexit will place a "huge burden" on both Parliament and Government departments. Given that on average each Queen’s Speech only announces 20 new bills, the demands of Brexit even before the UK leaves the EU will mean very little space left for other legislation.

"Departments will need to ruthlessly prioritise other legislation and indeed find non-legislative approaches to achieve policy aims where possible, particularly in the context of the Government’s narrow Commons majority", the Institute states.

The paper warns that the extent of legislative change required will inevitably lead to Government using different routes to make Brexit-related changes – such as extensive powers to make amendments using secondary legislation (so-called Henry VIII powers), which is subject to less parliamentary scrutiny. The House of Lords Constitution Committee warned earlier this month against excessive powers of delegation, calling for "exceptional scrutiny" of the Great Repeal Bill (click here for report).

The Institute paper argues that the Government should resist the temptation to introduce non-essential changes in the repeal bill. Instead, the priority should be to copy across the acquis, or the body of EU law, which can be amended after Brexit.

It also makes several recommendations for how the Government should manage Brexit-related bills, including publishing white papers with full impact assessments and scheduling the legislative programme to allow the timely passage of the secondary legislation needed before exit.

It calls on members of both the Commons and the Lords to get involved at an early stage, pressing the Government to publish white papers and introduce bills in draft wherever possible. They should also time their evidence sessions and reports carefully to maximise impact on new areas of policy.

Dr Hannah White, IfG director of research, commented:

"The legislation required for Brexit will leave little parliamentary time for anything else – and making a success of it will require a large volume of bills and secondary legislation to be passed by Parliament against a hard deadline. It will be a challenge for both the Government and Parliament to do all this while still ensuring full scrutiny and leaving room for the Government’s domestic policy agenda.”

The paper proposes a timetable for the Repeal Bill:

  • a white paper before Easter recess 2017;
  • a bill introduced following the Queen’s Speech in May;
  • second reading and bill entering committee before the summer recess;
  • committee stages continuing into September and if necessary beyond the conference recess;
  • Lords stages during the remainder of 2017;
  • Royal Assent in early 2018 with provisions of the Act brought into force as appropriate thereafter.

Click here to access the report. 

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