Brexit Briefing - Brexit Progress

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Brexit Progresses

Boris Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement has passed its third and final vote in the House of Commons. The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (“WAB”) was passed at Committee Stage without amendment. A number of amendment clauses were put forward but all were defeated with comfortable majorities. The WAB proceeded to its third reading on 9 January 2020 where it was passed. The WAB has now proceeded to the House of Lords where it will undergo fresh scrutiny.

Changes to the WAB

The WAB which is currently proceeding through Parliament is not the same as the one which was put forward in October 2019. Whilst the core content remains the same, some major changes have been made. These include but are not limited to:

  • Prohibiting UK ministers from agreeing an extension of time to the transitional period.  The UK government have made it clear that they believe completing a trade agreement within this time is achievable however some officials in the EU have raised concerns that the timescale is not realistic.
  • Removing the Government's commitment to protect the rights of child refugees living in the UK. The new WAB only expresses a commitment to negotiate with the EU on the rights of child refugees.
  • Removal of protection for workers' rights. Known as the non-regression principle, Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement guaranteed that workers' rights in the UK would not be diminished. Johnson's first Withdrawal Agreement contained a watered down version of this commitment. The new WAB has no commitment to retain the current level or workers' rights. The Government have confirmed they will be putting forward a new 'Employment Bill' to address this.

In Other News...Ministers are hoping for national celebrations to mark the day the UK leaves the EU. The celebrations could include a Brexit beer, the chiming of Big Ben and local councils flying the Union Jack. A poll conducted by the Independent found that voters are now in favour of remaining in the EU, by 52% to 48%.Operation Yellowhammer, the Government's no-deal Brexit plan, has been stopped. It is anticipated the WAB will proceed through both Houses of Parliament, making the no-deal planning unnecessary.

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The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.