Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st January 2020

The updated Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) is now published – here.

The Explanatory Notes for the updated WAB are here.

Two clauses giving a role for Parliament, including relating to negotiating objectives for the next phase, are removed, these were Clauses 30 and 31.

Clause 34 and Schedule 4 on workers’ rights are also gone. Explanatory notes to the Queen’s Speech identify the government will bring forward an Employment Bill in this legislative period 2019-2020 (this Blog does not focus on employment law, save for health and safety aspects).

Among the 5 new clauses:

Clause 30 on Withdrawal Treaty Joint Committee dispute resolution reporting

Clause 33 banning Ministers from agreeing to an extension to the transition period (termed implementation period in the bill)

Clause 35 banning the use of written procedure in the Withdrawal Treaty Joint Committee

Clause 36 repealing spent enactments

Re: the briefed stories about letting lower courts depart from CJEU judgments, rather than just the Supreme Court and High Court of Justiciary – this seems to be catered for by a new subsection in clause 26(1) that gives Ministers a power to decide when lower courts can do this.

Another change is in clause 20. In October the WAB had what’s called a standing service provision, which authorises expenditure to the EU for sums owed under the WA treaty. It was time limited last time (to March 2021) but a Minister could extend it. No more can it be extended.

Last time the Bill only had provisions about House of Commons scrutiny of developments in EU law during the transition period (the European Scrutiny Committee could force debates in the Commons). It seems there is now the same role in the Lords for its EU Committee in clause 29. During the transition period, the Bill incorporates developments in EU law into UK Law and stays (delays) the effect of Brexit Law changing the UK statute base so it can stand alone.

It also seems like Schedule 2 has been amended a bit. It now looks like the Independent Monitoring Authority can delegate decisions about starting inquiries and legal proceedings (where it couldn’t before) and that its functions can be transferred more easily than before.

There may be other changes that are identified or that are accepted as the Bill is scrutinised.

The Second Reading is scheduled for tomorrow, which will be easily carried. The Bill will then go forward for scrutiny in the usual fashion once Parliament returns from its holidays.

Parliament will take its Christmas holidays at the end of tomorrow, to return again on 6th January.

The WAB will amend the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. In addition to bringing in the transition period to 31st December 2020 (known as the Implementation Period completion day) the fact of enactment of the WAB, will delay the deadline for application to the EU Settled Status Scheme to June 2021.

If there are further substantive changes to the WAB, I will post again, otherwise not.

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