At last progress to report on Brexit!
On Wednesday night (1 February) the bill to allow the Government to invoke Article 50 passed its second reading in the House of Commons with 498 in favour and 114 opposing. On Thursday (2 February) the Government published its “Brexit White paper”. The Article 50 bill is one of the shortest bills to be put to parliament and its speed of progress it is certainly fast track in parliamentary terms.

The bill in full

The stages of the bill are:

Bill flowchart

Key dates:

  • 2 February: White Paper published – The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union – I refer to this as the Brexit White Paper.
  • 6 & 7 February: Committee stage
  • 8 February: Third reading
  • 20 February: Bill moves to the House of Lords with 7 March as its deadline.
  • 31 March: Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked. This starts the two-year negotiation period.
  • May/June 2017: The “Great Repeal Bill” is presented to the House.

The “Great Repeal Bill” will:

  • repeal the European Communities Act 1972, which provides legal authority for EU law to have effect as national law in the UK
  • transfer all EU laws currently in force onto the UK statute book

Will it be called the Great Repeal Bill? It is very unlikely that the bill it will be. It is much more likely to be called the European Union Bill or something similar.

The repeal bill, when enacted will enable the government to remove or modify all the aspects of EU legislation and regulation that it wants to – once we have left the EU – up to that point we still need to comply with EU law. Some legislation will need to be repealed, in other cases there may be actions that can be taken by Secretaries of State in regard to regulation, enforcement etc. It is a very complex area and difficult to second guess at this time.

The complexity can in part be illustrated by the following statement in the ‘Brexit White Paper’.

The extent of EU activity relevant to the UK can be demonstrated by the fact that 1,056 EU-related documents were deposited for parliamentary scrutiny in 2016.

Looking at the White Paper the only section relevant to energy is the following:

8.28 With respect to energy, EU legislation underpins the coordinated trading of gas and electricity through existing interconnectors with Member States, including Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. There are also plans for further electricity interconnections between the UK and EU Member States and EEA Members. These coordinated energy trading arrangements help to ensure lower prices and improved security of supply for both the UK and EU Member States by improving the efficiency and reliability of interconnector flows, reducing the need for domestic back-up power and helping balance power flows as we increase the level of intermittent renewable electricity generation. We are considering all options for the UK’s future relationship with the EU on energy, in particular, to avoid disruption to the all-Ireland single electricity market operating across the island of Ireland, on which both Northern Ireland and Ireland rely for affordable, sustainable and secure electricity supplies.

The meat of this section, and the white paper as far as energy is concerned, is:

We are considering all options for the UK’s future relationship with the EU on energy, in particular, to avoid disruption to the all-Ireland single electricity market operating across the island of Ireland.

In summary things are happening, but as yet nothing concrete in relation to energy supply, energy efficiency or climate change.

Next Brexit Watch:
Again, next Brexit newsletter will be produced when I think there is something worth reporting.

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