European Union (Withdrawal) Bill [HL]

Explanatory Notes

Approach of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

10 The principal purpose of the Bill is to provide a functioning statute book on the day the UK leaves the EU. As a general rule, the same rules and laws will apply on the day after exit as on the day before. It will then be for Parliament and, where appropriate, the devolved legislatures to make any future changes.

11 The Bill performs four main functions. It:

repeals the ECA;

converts EU law as it stands at the moment of exit into domestic law before the UK leaves the EU;

creates powers to make secondary legislation, including temporary powers to enable corrections to be made to the laws that would otherwise no longer operate appropriately once the UK has left the EU and to implement a withdrawal agreement (subject to the prior enactment of a statute by Parliament approving the final terms of withdrawal); and

maintains the current scope of devolved decision making powers in areas currently governed by EU law.

12 In determining this approach, the Government considered whether there were alternative viable legislative models available to deliver the changes required to ensure a functioning statute book on exit from the EU. These included using a single Bill to repeal the ECA and setting out in schedules the necessary consequential changes required to ensure a functioning statute book. However, given that the two year time period to conclude negotiations provided for by Article 50 will be running in parallel with this legislation, there may not be time to make all the necessary legislative changes in a single piece of legislation (as in some cases the content of that legislation could not be known until after the negotiations had concluded).

13 For that reason, the approach of taking delegated powers to make the necessary changes by secondary legislation was agreed by the Government as being the only appropriate solution. This was acknowledged by the Lords Constitution Committee in its report into The ‘Great Repeal Bill’ and delegated powers :

"The degree of uncertainty as to what exactly the process of converting EU law into UK law will involve-and, in particular,
the need to take account of the UK’s ongoing Article 50 negotiations with the EU-will almost certainly necessitate granting
the Government relatively wide delegated powers under the ‘Great Repeal Bill’, both to amend existing EU law in
preparation for the day of Brexit and to legislate for new arrangements following Brexit where necessary." 1

14 The Bill does not aim to make major changes to policy or establish new legal frameworks in the UK beyond those which are appropriate to ensure the law continues to function properly from day one. The Government will introduce separate primary legislation to make such policy changes which will establish new legal frameworks.

15 In addition to the power in clause 9 of the Bill, the Government has announced that a separate Bill, the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill, will be used to implement in domestic legislation the major elements of the withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU that will need to be reflected in domestic legislation (see paragraph 31 of these notes for further detail).

1 House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution, 9th Report of Session 2016–17


Prepared 18th January 2018