On 11 September 2017, Parliament voted on the Second Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. 

The Bill is a technical device to achieve three simple aims: 

  1. Repeal the European Communities Act, remove the supremacy of EU law and return control to the UK. 

  2. Convert EU law into UK law where appropriate, giving businesses continuity to operate in the knowledge that nothing has changed overnight, and providing certainty that rights and obligations will not be subject to sudden change. 

  3. Create the necessary temporary powers to correct the laws that no longer operate appropriately, so that our legal system continues to function outside the EU. 

The Government and the devolved administrations will have a time-limited power for 2 years to make technical and legal corrections to deficiencies in the law. Ministers will not have the power to make major policy changes and they will still be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and oversight. Changes will be made by statutory instrument - a standard and commonly-used parliamentary procedure that MPs will be able to pray against. The technical changes will necessarily be uncontroversial so that they can pass before the UK leaves the EU. 

It will simply be impossible to handle the process of changing 40 years of legislation through Acts of Parliament.  The Bill therefore ensures that the legislation will always be scrutinised in Parliament but in a different way as the sheer scale means that it cannot always be done through primary legislation. 

Workers' rights, consumer protection and environmental laws will not change and businesses will benefit from the certainty the Bill brings. Strong workers' rights existed in this country long before the UK became a member of the EU, and the Prime Minister has promised to protect workers' rights in full. We already go beyond minimum EU requirements in a number of areas of employment law. For instance, we provide more weeks of annual leave than that specified by the EU, and nearly four times the required statutory maternity leave. The UK also introduced shared parental leave in 2015 independently of the EU, and the right to request flexible working has been available to all employees since 2014. 

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will have eight days in Committee, with eight hours protected every day.  There will be a large number of subsequent Bills on new policies, systems and processes that relate to the UK’s departure from the EU, so there will be many opportunities for MPs throughout the House to have their views taken into account.

A factsheet on the Bill can be found here: