Queen's Speech: Brexit bills


In the recent Queen’s Speech, the government has presented plans to lay seven Brexit-focused bills before Parliament. Two other bills also relate to Brexit. Of these, five had been previously presented but did not receive Royal Assent due to prorogation.

Others, such as the Private International Law Bill, are new bills. In some instances, the bills contain only some sections that concern Brexit, including the Environment Bill.

Agriculture Bill

This bill was introduced in the last parliamentary session and it looks likely to be reintroduced unchanged. It sets out a framework for the UK to leave the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and a new payment system of ‘public money for public goods’ in England. This rewards land owners for services such as public access and environmental protection.

There will be a seven-year transition to the new system, starting in 2021.

The bill gives powers to Welsh and Northern Irish ministers to make payments in devolved areas – but the Scottish government has decided to pass its own Agriculture Bill.

Deal: Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK would remain part of the CAP until the end of transition – although the EU regulation which allows the UK government to make payments to farmers will no longer apply in 2020. The government will need to ensure it has those powers in order to continue paying subsidies.

The permanent secretary for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said the bill would need to be passed by summer 2020 to give the UK sufficient time to set up a replacement payments system.

No deal: The UK will be able to continue to make payments to farmers under the regulations transferred by the EU Withdrawal Act, but it will need the Agriculture Bill to establish a new domestic regime.

Environment Bill

Part of this bill was published in the last parliamentary session. It appears it will be unaltered with the exception of new legal targets for environmental improvement.

It establishes the Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) – a response to concerns about a ‘governance gap’ in environmental law once the UK leaves European institutions.

Other areas of the bill, such biodiversity and reducing pollution, are not Brexit-focused.

Deal: The UK will continue under the oversight of the European Commission and the European Court of Justice during transition period, so the OEP will not be needed until January 2021.

No deal: Having already accepted that the OEP will not be established until 2021, the government will implement a holding period whereby the OEP receives reports of alleged breaches and can take action upon its establishment.

Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill

After the UK leaves the EU, the UK will no longer have full access to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) which allows police officers to arrest individuals wanted by authorities in the other 27 EU member states. This bill intends to address this capability gap by allowing police officers to arrest individuals subject to an Interpol (the international policing organisation) red notice issued by a ‘trusted’ country – an arrangement which EU27 authorities will have to use in place of EAWs to apprehend individuals they believe to be in the UK.

A separate arrest warrant – issued by a UK judge – is required for cases not under the jurisdiction of the European Arrest Warrant.

Deal: The European Arrest Warrant will largely continue to function – with some specific changes – during the transition period. This means that the change to Interpol red notices is not as urgent. The UK’s long-term access to the European Arrest Warrant is one of the key issues that will need to be negotiated in the future relationship. .

No deal: The UK will lose access to the European Arrest Warrant immediately and would require the bill to make arrests on an Interpol red notice.

Financial Services Bill

While there was a Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill introduced in the last parliamentary session, this Financial Services Bill appears to have additional provisions. The bill’s stated aim is to streamline financial investment into the UK, give Gibraltar access to the UK financial market and implement the Basel financial standards – a set of rules that require banks to hold certain levels of capital and liquid assets.

The bill may still allow the UK to adopt ‘in-flight’ legislation – which is legislation that has either been adopted by the EU but does not yet apply, or is subject to negotiation and may be adopted by the EU for up to two years after Brexit.

Deal: The Withdrawal Agreement Bill will contain necessary powers to implement in-flight legislation but the new provisions may mean that the bill has to be passed before the end of extension.

No deal: Significant areas of financial services regulation will be frozen on the date of exit. The Treasury has implied that this legislation is necessary under no deal, as a delay in updating regulation “represents a risk to the reputation, global competitiveness and efficiency of the UK’s financial market”.

Fisheries Bill

This bill was also tabled in the last parliamentary session. It has been announced in the Queen’s Speech with no clear alterations.

The bill establishes a framework for the creation of a UK-wide fisheries policy, as an alternative to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). This would enable the UK to operate as an independent coastal state, in which it has control over its waters with no automatic access for foreign fishing vessels.

As fisheries is a devolved matter, the bill provides for the secretary of state and the devolved administrations to produce a joint statement setting out how their fisheries policies achieve sustainability objectives set out by the bill.

Deal: The bill is needed at the end of transition if the UK secures a deal. As part of the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK would remain part of the CFP until the end of transition, at which time the UK would need to implement its own policy.

No deal: Under no deal, the UK would automatically become an independent coastal state and cease to be a member of the CFP. Although the bill gives powers to the secretary of state to set the fishing quota for the UK, the government believes it would be able to set this through royal prerogative.

Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill.

This bill failed to receive Royal Assent in the last parliamentary session and appears to have returned with only minor changes. Its purpose is to repeal freedom of movement for EU and EEA nationals; clarify the rights of Irish citizens post-freedom of movement; and give power to amend EU social security co-ordination legislation.

There are minor changes implied by the Queen’s Speech, such as the focus on a points-based immigration system and the movement from ‘protection’ to ‘clarification’ of Irish citizen’s rights.

Deal: The bill is needed for the end of transition to fulfil the government’s policy of ending freedom of movement. During the transition period, freedom of movement will continue.

No deal: Without this bill, the government will not be able to end freedom of movement. However, there are also practical constraints: the deadline for settled status applications ends in December 2020 under no deal, and the government’s future migration system will not be in place before 2021.

Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill

The bill will implement three key international conventions into UK domestic law: the 1996, 2005 and 2007 Hague Conventions, which the UK has been party to by virtue of its EU membership. It will also give the government power to implement further international legal agreements in UK law.

The 1996 Hague Convention allows cross-border co-operation on cases involving children and parental responsibility. The 2005 Hague Convention clarifies global contract law. The 2007 Hague Convention allows for cross-border enforcement of family maintenance decisions, such as child maintenance.

Deal: For the purposes of the Hague Conventions, the UK will be treated as an EU member until the end of the transition. Therefore the bill would not be needed until the end of the transition period.

No deal: If the UK leaves without a deal, the bill would be required to implement the Hague Conventions in UK law.

Trade Bill

This bill was introduced but did not receive Royal Assent in the last Parliament. It appears to be unchanged.

The bill has three main objectives. First, to allow the UK to be a member of the Agreement on Government procurement (GPA), a World Trade Organization (WTO) arrangement which the UK is party to via the EU. Second, to establish a UK-only Trade Remedy Authority (TRA), which would combat price manipulation in global trade. Third, to implement the EU trade deals which the UK is currently ‘rolling over’.

Deal: During transition, the UK would continue to be represented by the EU at the WTO and would not have an independent trade policy. The EU said it would ask third countries to continue to treat the UK as a member state to ensure trade deal continuity, so the bill would not be needed until the end of transition.

No deal: In a no-deal scenario, the Department for International Trade believes it has workarounds to achieve its objectives without the bill. The UK has already been invited to join the GPA, subject to parliamentary scrutiny. The powers proposed for the TRA can be exercised by the secretary of state under the Cross-Border Trade (Taxation) Act, one of the Brexit bills which has passed. However, it is unclear how ministers plan to implement trade deals without the powers set out in this bill.

Withdrawal Agreement Bill

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) is the key Brexit bill to facilitate leaving the EU with a deal – the government cannot ratify the Withdrawal Agreement until it is passed. It will implement the Withdrawal Agreement in domestic law, including providing for the transition period; protect the rights of EU, EEA and EFTA citizens in the UK; establishing the Independent Monitoring Authority to protect citizens’ rights and set out the process for the commencement of the Northern Ireland protocol


Date needed for a deal

Date needed for no deal

Agriculture Bill In time to set up a Common Agricultural Policy replacement – summer 2020. If the government wants to set up the Common Agricultural Policy replacement for January 2021 – summer 2020.
Environment Bill End of transition. When the government wants to establish a UK-wide environmental protections body – January 2021
Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill End of transition. Shortly after withdrawal date.
Financial Services Bill Not needed for in-flight legislation, but may be needed by end of transition for other provisions. Shortly after withdrawal date.
Fisheries Bill End of transition. When the government wants to establish new fisheries regime or needs to react to other changes in UK fisheries.
Immigration and Social Security Coordination Bill End of transition. When the government’s new immigration system is ready – January 2021.
Private International Law Bill End of transition. Shortly after withdrawal date.
Trade Bill End of transition. Shortly after withdrawal date.
Withdrawal Agreement Bill Required to withdraw with a deal. n/a
Update date: 
Thursday, October 17, 2019