The most significant Brexit developments this month centred around the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19, which reached the Report Stage in the House of Lords.
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 reached the Report Stage in the House of Lords (HoL) in April and throughout the month the HoL approved a series of amendments to the EUWB:
- On 18 April 2018, two notable amendments were approved that attempt to impose a degree of Parliamentary scrutiny and control on the executive’s approach to Brexit. The first requires the government to make a statement to both Houses of Parliament by 31 October 2018 regarding the UK’s continued participation in a customs union with the European Union. The second amendment inserts a new clause which provides that retained EU law may only be repealed, amended or revoked by primary legislation, or by secondary legislation provided it is approved by both Houses of Parliament and an enhanced scrutiny and consultation procedure is complied with.
- On 23 April 2018, amendments that would retain the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in domestic legislation, preserve rights of action for breaches of the general principles of EU law, and clarify the status of retained EU law were approved.
- On 25 April, amendments that would heighten the test for use of the government’s “Henry VIII” correcting powers under clause 7, and remove the clause 8 powers from the EUWB were approved.
- On 30 April, amendments that would require Parliament’s approval of the draft withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU, and enable Parliament to issue directions concerning the withdrawal negotiations if deadlines are not met, were approved.
The EUWB’s final House of Lords Report Stage sitting is scheduled for 8 May 2018.
The government issued its response to the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution on the EUWB on 11 April 2018, accepting some but not all its recommendations. In its response, the government proposed amendments to several aspects of the EUWB, including the status of Direct EU legislation, actions against a breach of the general principles of EU law before exit day, and “Henry VIII” correcting powers. The government subsequently published additional sample statutory instruments that illustrate how the “Henry VIII” correcting powers may be delegated to UK public authorities under the EUWB, as well as illustrative consequential correcting powers under clause 17.
Framework for the future UK-EU relationship
At the start of April, the House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee published a report on the future UK-EU relationship. The report looks at the EU’s existing relationships with other countries (Canada, Ukraine, Switzerland, Norway and Turkey) and at trading on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms in the absence of a trading agreement. The Committee concluded that the ability to elevate a Canada-style agreement into a deal that makes up for any loss in services trade consequent on leaving the single market would require an unprecedented development of mutual recognition agreements far more ambitious than any previously agreed by the EU with another country.
Later in the month, the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper on the negotiating guidelines adopted by the European Council on 23 March 2018 on the framework for the future UK-EU relationship. The briefing paper looked at how the UK and the EU envisage their relationship after Brexit and summarises the UK and EU positions on matters such as the economic relationship, climate change and cross-border pollution, free movement, transport, regulatory alignment, and enforcement and dispute settlement.
The House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee also launched a call for evidence for its inquiry into the proposed UK-EU treaty post Brexit on 26 April 2018.
CBI report on the future of UK regulation after Brexit
On 12 April 2018, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) published a report outlining the regulatory needs of 23 industry and service sectors following the transition period for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The report was based on conversations with UK businesses and trade associations. Some 18 out of the 23 industry and service sectors stated that they preferred convergence or alignment for the majority of regulation in their areas that mattered. However, sectors such as agriculture, shipping and tourism felt that rule changes could benefit the British economy and consumers.