LONDON — While Theresa May did erase large areas of Conservative party policy from the Queen’s Speech, one area that has survived intact is her commitment to a ‘Hard Brexit’ and taking the UK out of the Customs Union and the Single Market.
The speech sets out a total of eight Brexit bills designed to remove Britain from the EU. The plans confirm that Britain plans to pursue a ‘Hard Brexit’ despite growing opposition to it within the Conservative party.
“The fact is that over 80% of the electorate backed the two major parties, both of whom campaigned on manifestos that said we should honor the democratic decision of the British people,” May said in her introduction to the speech
“While this will be a government that consults and listens, we are clear that we are going to see Brexit through, working with Parliament, business, the devolved administrations and others to endure a smooth and orderly withdrawal.”
Here is all the legislation May plans to use to get Britain through Brexit:
This will repeal the European Communities Act and convert all existing EU law and regulations into UK law, from which the government can then amend and repeal it at will. This bill is already hugely controversial with suggestions that it could amount to a huge “power grab” by the government, given the freedom it allows ministers to erase whole areas of policy without putting them before a public vote. The bill is likely to be the most controversial and tricky one for May to pass over the next two years.
May will put forward a new Customs Bill which will allow Britain to set up an entirely new customs regime to replace the existing Customs Union with the EU. This is a mammoth task to complete in two years and is likely to find opposition from significant numbers of Conservative MPs. Labour has yet to state whether they will support Britain’s exit from the Customs Union.
Like the Customs Bill, May’s Trade Bill will allow Britain to set up a new legislative framework for trade outside of the existing arrangements with the EU.
This means that Britain will definitely be leaving the Single Market and suggests the government remains opposed to calls for Britain to remain part of the European Economic Area. This does not mean that Britain won’t have access to the Single Market.
This bill will confirm that the free movement of people from the EU will come to an end. According to the government’s briefing the bill will “allow the government to make the migration of EU nationals and their family members subject to relevant UK law once the UK has left the EU.
This bill will allow Britain to control access to its own waters and set its own fishing quotas, outside of the jurisdiction of the EU.
However, the precise nature of this control is likely to be dependent on the outcome of Brexit negotiations. Again, this bill could prove a sticking point for May’s government over the coming two years.
One of the biggest issues facing post-Brexit Britain is what will happen to existing EU subsidies given to UK farmers. The government has yet to fully commit to maintaining these subsidies post-Brexit and there is no commitment contained within either the speech of the accompanying briefing documents. May has instead made a general promise to “provide stability for farmers as we exit the EU.”
Nuclear Safeguards Bill
One aspect of Brexit that has not yet been widely discussed is what will happen to all of the many EU regulatory bodies that currently govern life and business in the UK. One of those bodies we will lose access to is the European agency Euratom. This bill will allow the government to establish a new UK-only body for the nuclear industry.
International Sanctions Bill
Another piece of housekeeping demanded by Brexit is what happens to the UK’s role in imposing trade sanctions on countries around the world as part of the UN security council.
These are currently managed on an EU level. This bill will allow the government to set up a new framework to allow that work to be done in the UK.