UK must face 'huge burden' of 15 new Brexit bills

(iStock)
(iStock)

London - Even before the UK leaves the European Union, its Parliament may need to pass as many as 15 new bills and thousands of pages of “secondary legislation” covering immigration, trade and agriculture to name but a few.

These are among the findings of an 18-page report released on Monday by the Institute of Government that examined what it called the “huge burden” Brexit will place on lawmakers and government departments to pull off the biggest peacetime challenge the country has faced.

“The legislation required for Brexit will leave little parliamentary time for anything else - and making a success of it will require a large volume of bills and secondary legislation to be passed by Parliament against a hard deadline,” Hannah White, IFG’s director of research, said in a release.

To give a sense of the task at hand, the think tank said that in most years, about 20 new pieces of government legislation are unveiled during the Queen’s speech, when Elizabeth II formally kicks off a new parliamentary session; that’s the number of bills both houses can typically handle.

So just imagine how pushed for time lawmakers will be when they are faced with 10 to 15 new Brexit bills “with fewer than two complete parliamentary sessions in which to do the job,” the report said.

“For government departments, the challenge will not just be getting this legislation through Parliament, but coping with the impact of legislating for Brexit on top of ‘business as usual,”’ the London-based group said.

It added that “considerable time and resource will be soaked up and there will be precious little space left in the legislative programme for other legislation that departments might have wanted to see pass.”

If the Great Repeal Act, which would end the EU’s legal supremacy in the UK, is passed and receives Royal Assent in early 2018, this would allow just over a year for Parliament to pass the secondary raft of legislation required when the UK leaves by March 2019.

That timeline is based on Prime Minister Theresa May triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the formal mechanism to quit the bloc, by the end of this month as promised. That gives way to two years of formal and complex negotiations that could see the UK leave without a deal on things like trade - a prospect often referred to as a cliff-edge scenario.

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