UK-wide alliance warns: 15 days until Brexit but legislation necessary for exit not in sight



For extended comment or for more information about the alliance, please contact the alliance's coordinator, Malene Bratlie on


  • 15 days to go until 29th March and critical Withdrawal Agreement bill not published

  • The Withdrawal Agreement will not come into effect until this legislation is passed

  • A UK-wide civil society alliance of 80 organisations has written to Brexit minister calling for urgent publication of bill for scrutiny - read the letter in full here.

UK-wide alliance warns: 15 days until Brexit but legislation necessary for exit not in sight

Parliament now has less than 15 days to scrutinise a critical piece of Brexit legislation bill that has yet to be published even in draft form, an alliance of over 80 civil society organisations has warned.

The Brexit Civil Society Alliance has a serious concern that time available before March 29 simply is not sufficient to properly scrutinise a piece of legislation that will have significant legal, political and constitutional implications. Today, they have written to Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Stephen Barclay, asking him to publish the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in draft form as soon as possible [5]. If the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is not published in draft form now there will not be enough opportunities for civil society, individuals and other stakeholders to have meaningful input in the legislative process.

This legislation - the Withdrawal Agreement Bill - is legally necessary for the Brexit deal to take effect in domestic law. It must be passed in order for the government to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement reached with the EU [1].

Unless the exit date, which has been legislated for in the EU (Withdrawal) Act, is changed, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill has to be passed by the 29th March [2]. If it not passed, the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be legally ratified.

The bill will carry significant constitutional weight and is likely to attract fierce debate in Parliament. The Withdrawal Agreement Bill will serve a range of purposes. Centrally, it will contain necessary implementing provisions in key areas of the Withdrawal Agreement, namely: the continued primacy of EU law and courts during the transition period; entrenchment of EU citizens’ rights so they cannot be repealed by future parliaments; and the implementation of the ‘backstop’ [3].

Even if there is a short extension of Article 50, the government should still publish the Bill in draft now to give Parliament and wider stakeholders as much time as possible to scrutinise the proposals.

The government’s justification for not publishing the Bill has been that the Withdrawal Agreement details ‘have been much debated in the House’ already, and so on that basis there is no need to publish the bill in draft form now [6]. However, Parliament has not spent sufficient time debating the constitutional and practical issues of how the Withdrawal Agreement will be implemented in domestic law.

Malene Bratlie, co-ordinator of the Brexit Civil Society Alliance, said:

“There are serious questions to be raised of the government as to why they haven’t yet published the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, at least in parts or in draft. Parliamentarians, civil society and business need proper time to scrutinise how the government will implement the Withdrawal Agreement in domestic law.”

“Without proper scrutiny of what is likely to be a highly complex and constitutionally important Bill, parliamentarians and wider stakeholders will not have a proper voice in this process.”

-- ENDS --



Notes to editors

[1] Open Letter To Rt Hon Stephen Barclay MP: The Withdrawal Agreement Bill And The Importance Of Proper Legislative Scrutiny

[2] Department for Exiting the European Union, White Paper: Legislating for Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, Page 4, paragraph 4

[3] Section 13 (1) (d) the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 require that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill has to complete its parliamentary passage before the government may ratify the Withdrawal Agreement.

[4] More information about the provisions that are likely to be contained in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in a briefing by Brexit Civil Society Alliance