Brexit legislation: What has passed and what is yet to come?

The UK is currently in a transition period, having left the EU at the end of January 2020. Legislation is needed to ensure the UK has measures in place to replace the EU laws, when transition ends on 31 December 2020.

This Insight explains what legislation is required, what has already been passed and what is left to pass.

The status of legislation is subject to change and this Insight should be read as correct at the date of publication (09.06.20).

Which Brexit Acts have passed?

To date, Parliament has enacted seven Acts associated with the process of exiting the EU:

  • European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020
  • European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018
  • Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018
  • Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018
  • Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018
  • Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018
  • Healthcare (European Economic Area and Switzerland Arrangements) Act 2019.

Which Brexit Bills are going through Parliament?

Trade Bill 2019-21

This Bill aims to provide continuity for UK trade relations at the end of the transition period.

It would allow the UK to use secondary legislation to “roll over” trade relations with countries the EU already has a trade agreement with.

The Bill would also establish a UK Trade Remedies Authority. This would take over the EU’s current function to act against unfair competition from ‘dumped’ goods, imported at artificially low prices. It would also enable Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to seek and share trade-related information.

The Bill passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 20 May 2020.It is expected to complete its scrutiny stage in a Public Bill Committee by 25 June 2020.

Agriculture Bill 2019-21

The UK left the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on exiting the EU on 30 January 2020.

The Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Act 2020 continues direct payments to farmers across the UK. Payments are based on the amount of land they farm. These payments are like those paid under the CAP for 2020.

The Agriculture Bill contains arrangements for future agricultural support.

There will be a new approach to farm support in England from 2021. It will include payment to farmers for ‘public goods’ such as environmental or animal welfare improvements. Ministers will also be required to consider the need to encourage food production and ensure food security.

Concern has been expressed that the Agriculture Bill contains no commitment that food and animal welfare standards will not be reduced in future trade deals. The Bill does contain provisions to secure compliance with the WTO Agreement on Agriculture.

The Bill has passed all its Commons stages and is scheduled for Second Reading in the Lords on 10 June 2020.

Fisheries Bill 2019-21

From 1 January 2021 the UK will cease to be part of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It will become an independent coastal state and fully responsible for managing fisheries in the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Fisheries Bill gives the Secretary of State the ability to set and distribute fishing opportunities in UK waters. It also revokes the automatic right of access to UK waters of EU vessels.

The UK and EU aim to reach an agreement on fisheries before 1 July 2020. So far negotiations have not reconciled their positions.

The Bill was introduced in the Lords and is scheduled for Report Stage on 24 June 2020 before reaching its Commons stages.

Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2019-21

This Bill would repeal the free movement rights of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens in the UK. It would protect Irish citizens’ existing immigration rights.

The legislation would also allow retained EU law on social security co-ordination to be modified by regulations. The Government says this will be necessary, “whether the UK has a future agreement with the EU at the end of the transition period or not.”

The Bill’s committee stage is due to be completed by 25 June 2020.

Environment Bill 2019-21

Part 1 of the Bill, on environmental governance and principles, stems from a draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill. This was published in December 2018.

The draft Bill was based on an amendment added into the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The amendment addressed concerns about a perceived loss of established environmental principles and EU governance mechanisms following Brexit.

The Bill has reached committee stage in the Commons, which is scheduled to be completed by 25 June 2020.

Which Brexit Bills are due to be introduced in the 2019-21 Session?

There are two further anticipated Bills which are deemed necessary to allow the UK to smoothly depart the transition period.

These two Bills have not been introduced to Parliament yet.

Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [HL] 2017-19

Most financial services regulation is currently done at the EU level. The Financial Services Bill enables the Treasury to make corresponding or similar provisions in UK law to upcoming EU financial services legislation.

If the transition period ends with no deal, without this Bill, there will be no mechanism in UK law through which financial services regulation can be updated.

Before the 2019 General Election, the Bill completed its stages in the Lords and had reached committee stage in the Commons. But it progressed no further.

Financial services legislation was announced in the December 2019 Queen’s Speech but has not yet been introduced.

Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill

EU Law recognises animals as sentient beings. Before the 2019 General Election, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill 2017-19, aimed at increasing sentences for animal cruelty,did not complete its parliamentary stages.

The Queen’s Speech in December 2019 announced the intention to introduce these measures in animal welfare legislation.

Further reading

The UK’s EU Withdrawal Agreement, House of Commons Library.

Coronavirus: Is it possible to extend the Brexit transition period? House of Commons Library.

What legislation is required for a ‘no deal’ Brexit? House of Commons Library.


About the author: Nikki Sutherland is a researcher at the House of Commons Library.

Photo: Dave Kellam / CC BY-SA