May announces Article 50 trigger as IfG warns there will be "little time for anything else"

Written by Richard Johnstone on 20 March 2017 in News

EU exit process will lead to increased pressure on departments to prioritise legislation says Institute for Government think tank

Prime minister Theresa May is to start the process of the UK leaving the European Union on 29 March, Downing Street has confirmed today.

Confirmation of the start date for the exit talks comes as the Institute for Government warned that as many as 15 new laws could be needed, in addition to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act and the Great Repeal Bill, which have already been announced by ministers.

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The Great Repeal Bill is intended to move all existing EU law onto the UK statute books, but further legislation will be needed to set up the new policies and administrative processes the UK will need after it leaves the bloc.

These will be required in areas where leaving the EU will create a policy gap that cannot be filled by mapping over existing EU laws, the IfG said. Examples will include new immigration systems and customs procedures, as well as developing the UK’s standalone agriculture policy.

Working back from the likely exit date of March 2019, ministers will also need to factor in the time to adapt or establish new administrative systems, to allocate the money required to fund these developments and to make political decisions about new areas of policy. Tasks included in this group will include technological developments, such as new computer systems for customs offices to deal with rules-of-origin declarations for free trade deals.

Due to the extent of legislation required Hannah White, the IfG’s director of research, said there will be "little parliamentary time for anything else".

“It will be a challenge for both the government and parliament to do all this while still ensuring full scrutiny and leaving room for the government’s domestic policy agenda,” she said.

In particular it is likely there will be a very significant reduction in non-Brexit legislation in both the 2017 and 2018 parliamentary sessions. The civil service will therefore be under greater pressure to prioritise parliamentary time for other areas of policy, and departments are likely to seek non-legislative routes where possible to achieve their objectives.

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Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy editor and tweets as @RichRJohnstone

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