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IFG - New report lays bare the challenge of Brexit law-making

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

The report Legislating Brexit warns that Brexit will place a huge burden on both Parliament and government departments. It says on average each Queen’s Speech only announces 20 new bills, so 15 new Brexit bills before the UK even exits will leave very little space for non-Brexit related 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 paper warns the extent of legislative change required will inevitably lead to Government using different routes to make Brexit-related changes – such as using secondary legislation to amend primary legation (so-called Henry VIII powers) – which is subject to less parliamentary scrutiny. 

Because of this, the paper argues, 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, which can be amended after Brexit.

The paper 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.

The paper also makes several recommendations for parliamentarians. Both the Commons and the Lords must get involved at an early stage, pressing the Government to publish white papers and introduce bills in draft wherever possible. They must also time their evidence sessions and reports carefully to maximise impact on new areas of policy.

Dr Hannah White, IfG Director of Research, said:

"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 offers a plausible 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.

For more information, please contact Nicole Valentinuzzi on 07850313791.

Notes to editors

  1. The report can be found on our website or available upon request.
  2. The Institute for Government (IfG) is an independent think tank working to make government more effective.
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