Build the bridge, now

A week and a half before Exit Day and Parliament has stalled the Bill. The no-deal approaches, which no one in Parliament wants. The Bill was absurdly complicated for one that had to be rammed through in three days: it is a Civil Service idea of how things should be done, with every jot and tittle accounted for, when that was not necessary at this stage.

It only needs a very short Act to put the Withdrawal Agreement into practical effect. The detailed provisions can follow on.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 already contains bridging provisions of a sort: it continues the effect of EU legislation until it is changed.  The two main concepts in in the 2018 Act can be reused: “EU-derived domestic legislation” and “direct EU legislation”. The Withdrawal Agreement only requires that this legislation (in certain areas) should not be changed and that it may be added to.  Therefore to bridge the gap, a ‘Bridging Bill’ need only say that in those transition areas:

  • The power to change these rules shall not be exercised during the Transition Period until except to adapt them to the new circumstances, such as to apply as if references to European Union’ were to ‘the United Kingdom and the European Union’; and
  • The Secretary of State may in that period enact new EU-derived rules.

That suffices for the bulk of what is in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and bridges the gap: the existing Withdrawal Act does the rest.

If the Commons are determined that the Agreement must be ratified, the Bill could add two lines:

  • The Government shall ratify the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration and shall use all its statutory powers in accordance with that Agreement.

Job done.

The Ulster protocol needs primary legislation, but as it only applies as from the end of the Transition Period,,31 December 20of 19, there is time enough for the Lords and Commons to debate and enact it.

For my usual fee, I could even draft the necessary Bill over a lunchtime.

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Author: AlexanderTheHog

A humble scribbler who out of my lean and low ability will lend something to Master Hobbes