Brexit could place ‘huge burden’ on Parliament

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The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill became law last week

Parliament could be tasked with scrutinising up to 15 new bills to deliver Brexit, leaving little time for other unrelated legislation, the Institute for Government has warned.

The IFG says legislation will be needed to establish new policies on areas such as customs and immigration.

The extra measures will place “a huge burden” on Parliament and government departments, the think tank says.

The attitude of the SNP may also affect the passage of Brexit laws, it adds.

In its report, Legislating Brexit, the IFG says that with the average Queen’s Speech announcing only 20 new bills, the introduction of 15 Brexit bills before the UK even exits the EU “will leave very little space for non-Brexit related legislation”.

The report comes as Theresa May travels to Swansea with Brexit Secretary David Davis, where she will talk about the “precious union” of the UK.

The prime minister will meet First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, as well as local businesses, as she tries to show she is including all areas of Britain in negotiations with the EU.

Mrs May will say: “I want every part of the United Kingdom to be able to make the most of the opportunities ahead.”

Devolved dilemma?

The IFG report anticipates the new bills will be in addition to the Great Repeal Bill, which will scrap the 1972 European Communities Act that paved the way for the UK to enter the then-EEC, ending the legal authority of EU law.

The IFG – an independent charity that aims to increase government effectiveness – says departments will need “ruthlessly to prioritise” other legislation and find non-legislative routes to get the laws through, particularly given the government’s narrow Commons majority.

It warns that this will mean ministers having to achieve a fine balancing between giving too little parliamentary scrutiny or too prolonged, in-depth examination to Brexit-related legislation.

The IFG also argued that “a lack of clarity” about the role the devolved legislatures will play in legislating for Brexit could pose a problem.

“The attitude that the Scottish National Party (SNP) takes to the passage of Brexit-related legislation in Westminster could affect the smoothness with which that legislation passes through Parliament if they join forces with the Labour Party and Conservative rebels,” the report says.

Two-year process

Dr Hannah White, IFG’s director of research, said: “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.

“It will be a challenge for both the government and Parliament to do all this while still ensuring full scrutiny and leaving room for the government’s domestic policy agenda.”

The Queen gave Royal Assent to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill last week, clearing the way for Theresa May to start talks to leave the European Union.

The Bill allows the prime minister to notify Brussels that the UK is leaving the EU, with a two-year process of exit negotiations to follow.

Mrs May says she will trigger the process by the end of the month.

Brexit could place ‘huge burden’ on Parliament}