As had been widely anticipated, today's Queen's Speech was very Brexit focused and will cover a two-year period rather than the usual one year legislative programme, in order to provide sufficient time for Parliament to adopt the legislation by the time the UK leaves the EU on 30 March 2019. It remains to be seen whether the programme will receive the necessary support in Parliament. The Labour and Liberal Democrat parties argue that the Conservative party does not have a mandate to govern and have talked of putting forward alternative versions of the Queen's Speech.
Eight of the bills listed in the Queen's Speech are Brexit related.
The Great Repeal Bill will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and preserve and convert into domestic law the whole body of EU law applying to the UK at the time it leaves the EU, in order to provide legal certainty and avoid a massive void in the UK statute book. In March this year the Government published a White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill (see our briefing here) which contains more detail as to how it intends this to work in practice.
The Government recognises that substantial changes will need to be made to a significant proportion of EU-derived law in order to make it work and provide legal certainty in a post-Brexit environment. The current estimate is that these corrections will require between 800 and 1,000 statutory instruments and the Government proposes to deal with this challenge through delegated powers, which will allow ministers to make the necessary amendments by secondary legislation. But such powers may prove controversial, as they will include so-called 'Henry VIII' powers under which ministers are able to amend primary legislation through secondary legislation, and it is these aspects of the Great Repeal Bill which may make it difficult to navigate through Parliament.
It will also be necessary to adopt a number of new bills in areas where entirely new domestic regulatory regimes will need to be created. The following bills are listed in the Queen's Speech:
An Immigration Bill which legislates for the end of the free movement under EU law and governs the status of EU nationals and their family members under UK law
A Trade Bill which puts in place the necessary framework for an independent trade policy for the UK outside the EU
A Customs Bill creating a standalone UK customs regime
A Fisheries Bill to allow the UK to take on responsibility for access to fisheries and management of its territorial waters once it is outside the EU Common Fisheries Policy
An Agriculture Bill which creates a system to replace the UK's membership of the EU Common Agriculture Policy
An International Sanctions Bill with the necessary powers for the UK to implement non-UN sanctions which is currently done at EU level
A Nuclear Safeguards Bill with new powers for the Office for Nuclear Regulation which will be necessary as a result of the UK leaving the Euratom Treaty
There may be other areas of legislation that will need to be considered such as changes to the law on VAT and to intellectual property rights to provide for "grandfathering" of EU rights used in the UK but which may cease to apply within the UK at Brexit.
Kristien GeeurickxProfessional Support Lawyer
+44 20 7466 2544