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The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (the EUW Bill) was introduced to the House of Commons on 13 July 2017.  The EUW Bill cuts off the source of European Union law in the UK by repealing the European Communities Act 1972, converts EU law and preserves EU-related domestic law onto the post-exit day statute book and provides delegated powers to make secondary legislation in order to prepare for leaving the EU.

The Committee Stage

The Committee Stage of the EUW Bill was held on the Floor of the House.  The Programme Motion, agreed after the conclusion of the Second Reading Debate on 11 September 2017, provided for 8 days of debate.  

Over 400 amendments and 80 new clauses were tabled to the Bill, with the amendment papers reaching 170 pages.  A spreadsheet listing all the amendments and new clauses tabled and their fate is available on the EUW Bill page on the Parliamentary website.

Of the 41 divisions that took place, only one resulted in a Government defeat.  However, Government amendments were passed, backbench amendments were accepted by the Government, and commitments were made by the Government to make further amendments at Report Stage.

In particular:

  • The Government made a commitment to consider how to provide more certainty over the status of EU case law (clause 6, day 1).
  • On 12 December the Government published a draft Bill on animal sentience (the Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill after interest was raised by a new clause on animal sentience moved by Caroline Lucas on day 2.
  • The Government reaffirmed its commitment to human rights and its commitment to publish a detailed memorandum setting out how each article of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights would be reflected in UK law after the UK leaves the EU. This has now been published (day 3).
  • The Government agreed to work with Dominic Grieve to clarify paragraph 3 of schedule 1 on challenges to the validity of retained EU law (day 3).
  • In response to a number of amendments tabled regarding the Francovich Rule (which allows individuals, under certain conditions, the possibility of obtaining compensation for directives whose transposition is poor, delayed or non-existent), the Government agreed to “consider further whether any additional specific and more detailed transitional arrangements” needed to be set out in regulations (day 3).
  • The Government has committed to amend Clause 11, on devolution, at report stage in order to achieve consensus with the Scottish and Welsh Governments (day 4).
  • The Government agreed to “work with Members across the House to absolutely ensure that the Belfast agreement is respected as we move forwards” (day 5).
  • Amendments tabled by Charles Walker (Con) Chair of the Procedure Committee, to create a sifting committee to examine the SIs made under the Bill and report on the procedure they should be subject to were agreed without division (debated on day 6 and agreed on day 7).
  • A Government amendment which will require statements to be published in relation to regulations or draft regulations made under the Bill to deal with the appropriateness and with their relationship to equalities legislation was agreed without division (debated on day 6 and agreed on day 7).
  • A commitment was made to work with Dominic Grieve on issues raised on the limits on the powers of ministers to make regulations to deal with deficiencies in retained EU law (day 6).
  • The Government was defeated by 309 to 305 on an amendment which requires a statute to be passed on the withdrawal agreement before the powers to implement the agreement under Clause 9 are used. The amendment, tabled by Dominic Grieve, was passed despite the Government offering the concession that they would amend the Bill so that the powers would not be used until a resolution had been passed by both Houses agreeing the withdrawal agreement (day 7).
  • The Government amended the Bill to set ‘exit day’ as 29 March 2019 at 11pm, and accepted an amendment tabled by Sir Oliver Letwin to allow the date specified to be changed by order (day 8).
  • The Government has said that they will bring forward an amendment on Report to put the requirement that only one exit day could be set for the purposes of the Bill and that any statutory instrument amending exit day would be subject to the affirmative procedure.

Report stage and remaining stages

The Bill has its Report and Remaining Stages scheduled for 16 and 17 January 2018. Amendments tabled for consideration at Report are available on the EUW Bill page on the Parliamentary website.

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