Briefing to MPs: A Case for Publishing the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in draft now



Executive summary

In the event of parliamentary approval of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Government has to bring forward the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill to give effect to the Brexit deal in domestic law. The Bill will contain provisions that are likely to be highly contentious politically and constitutionally. The Bill will also contain important provisions about citizens’ rights, how they will be protected and how they will be enforced.

The government has not set out a time frame in which this legislative process ought to take place. Doing so is crucial because, as set out in section 13 of the EU (Withdrawal) Act, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (hereafter the WA Bill) has to complete its parliamentary passage before the government may legally ratify the Withdrawal Agreement.  The government’s timetable for exiting the EU therefore means that the Bill would need to be passed by Parliament by March 29th 2019. The EU (Withdrawal) Act took 11 months to go through Parliament. Parliament now has fewer than 40 calendar days, and less than 30 sitting days to scrutinise a Bill that will carry significant constitutional weight and likely attract fierce debate in Parliament. The Bill has not even been published yet.

There are serious questions to be raised of the government as to why they haven’t yet published the WA Bill, or at least parts of it in draft. Doing so would mean that parliamentarians, business and civil society have as much time as possible to consider its provisions, which will no doubt have serious constitutional and legal implications.

There are a number of issues that the White Paper on the Bill does not clarify. In this briefing, we cover some of the elements of the WA Bill that we believe the government needs to clarify and that parliamentarians needs sufficient time to debate:

1) The constitutional status of the WA Bill

2) Citizens’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement

3) The Protocol on Ireland/ Northern Ireland

4) Transition period: The relationship between the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 and the Withdrawal Agreement Bill