Brexit, weeks to go and legislation pending
The UK is due to leave the European Union in weeks. The UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement on 29 March 2019 – and therefore without a transition period – would be the biggest change in relationship in the shortest possible period of time.
A report recently published by the Institute for Government presents some findings in relation to the legislation and its implementation. Some of the immediate consequences:
- The Government may have won a formal confidence vote but is struggling in both the Commons and the Lords to control parliamentary business. That means it cannot, as governments normally do, rely on its Commons majority to get its business through.
- It looks increasingly unlikely that the Prime Minister will be able to get the six outstanding Brexit bills through Parliament in time. Some of the major bills still have not started their Lords stages – where the Government does not control time. Any piece of legislation can become a target for people wanting to frustrate the Government’s intentions.
- The Government is also behind on secondary legislation. Despite a major push from government departments, only around 100 of the 600 statutory instruments required for a no deal Brexit have made their way through Parliament.
- Legislation can theoretically be rushed through Parliament, but that would bypass important scrutiny and, most importantly, require a stable majority – something the Government cannot currently bank on. That means there is a very significant risk that the laws that need to be in place for a no deal Brexit will not be on the statute book.
- The even bigger risk to readiness is having the new processes, new systems and new staff in place by March 2019 to avoid disruption. The Government has not had enough time to begin with to do everything required, but has made its problems worse by refusing to openly engage and keeping its plans secret.
- Business will need to be ready to use new systems and operate under new rules– but was told about plans too late (and has been outspoken about the lack of preparedness). The UK has still not said what tari regime it would operate with the EU after Brexit. Business is normally given years to prepare for these kinds of changes, but in this case has had just a few months – with “technical notices” released by the Government only in August 2018.
- The Government is also seeking to roll over existing trade deals and other EU agreements with countries around the world that the UK has access to as a member state. While some progress has been made, particularly on air services agreements, the Government has not said how many replacement agreements are outstanding.
- There are limits to how far the UK can be ready for no deal. What happens also depends on the EU. The EU has said that in the event of no deal it will not negotiate a ‘managed no deal’ with the UK but will put in place unilateral contingency measures. It has already taken some action on some aspects of financial services and on fliights between the UK and individual member states. But its aim will be to minimise disruption for EU citizens and businesses – not soften the blow for the UK.
Institute for Government. Brexit: Two Months to Go
Friday 08th February 2019
Jorge Emilio Núñez