Brexit Legislation

Debate on the EU (Future Relationship) Bill in the House of Commons, December 2020 | Source: UK Parliament
Debate on the EU (Future Relationship) Bill in the House of Commons, December 2020 | Source: UK Parliament


A significant amount of primary and secondary legislation is required to deal with Brexit and ensure the functioning of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. Primary legislation is made by Acts of Parliament. Secondary legislation, also called ‘delegated legislation’, is made by Ministers under powers given to them in primary legislation. Primary legislation can be described as the framework for a policy, while secondary legislation provides the detail within that framework.

The following is a list of EU Exit-related primary legislation. Acts have been made, while Bills are in the process of being enacted by the UK Parliament:

In the Queen’s Speech 2022, the UK Government announced its plans for post-Brexit regulation and legislation, including the following Bills:

On 13 June 2022, the UK Government published the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. This Bill would disapply core parts of the Protocol relating to trade in goods, subsidy control, the role of the Court of Justice of the EU, plus allow changes to VAT. The Government also published a policy paper and explanatory notes for the Bill, as well as its legal position. The Bill contained provisions which cover devolved or transferred matters and where the Bill engages the Legislative Consent Motion process, the UK Government would seek consent from the devolved administrations. In light of the Windsor Framework, the UK did not proceed with the NI Protocol Bill, which falls at the end of the parliamentary session.

The Government introduced the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill to Parliament in September 2022. The Bill would “sunset” the majority of retained EU law so it expires on 31 December 2023, unless preserved. On 10 May 2023, Minister Kemi Badenoch announced a “new approach” for REUL and amendments to the Bill: the sunset date would be replaced by a list of approximately 600 laws the Government intends to revoke at the end of 2023. Retained EU law refers to EU law (as it was on 31 December 2020) which was converted into UK domestic law by the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 when the UK left the EU. This aimed to provide legal certainty in the immediate period following the UK’s exit from the EU. It is also sometimes referred to as a ‘copy and paste’ of EU law onto UK statute books. In September 2021, the UK Government announced a review of both the status and substance of retained EU law. The Government has published a dashboard of retained EU law. Read more in the Commons Library briefing on the Retained EU Law Bill.

Legislative consent

According to the Sewel Convention, when the UK Parliament is legislating on matters within the devolved competence of the administrations of Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, the Government should “not normally” do so without the consent of the devolved administration. The devolved administrations can indicate their consent for Westminster to legislate on a devolved matter by agreeing a legislative consent motion (LCM). You can find details of the LCMs which the Assembly has considered in relation to Brexit by following this link. Ultimately, the principle of parliamentary sovereignty means that Westminster has the power to legislate on any matter, whether devolved or not.

Secondary legislation

The EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 gave Ministers power to create statutory instruments (SIs) to manage the legal issues caused by Brexit and ensure the law will function properly. SIs are the most common type of secondary legislation. UK statutory instruments will make most regulatory and legislative changes related to Brexit. Scrutiny of SIs is a matter for the UK Parliament.

Departments in the Northern Ireland Executive also have powers to bring forward secondary legislation in the form of Statutory Rules.  These rules are made in accordance with powers granted in the ‘parent’ or primary legislation.  Northern Ireland Assembly Committees undertake scrutiny of this secondary legislation. Read the details of the Brexit-related Statutory Rules passed by the Assembly. If you want to learn more about Statutory Rules, a useful FAQ can be found here.

Windsor Framework and the Stormont Brake

The Windsor Framework made arrangements for the Stormont Brake mechanism, through which 30 MLAs could potentially stop amended or replaced EU legislation applying under the Protocol. These arrangements are set out in a Statutory Instrument, the Windsor Framework (Democratic Scrutiny) Regulations 2023. It provides for a new committee in the NI Assembly “to support MLAs in considering whether this new power should be used”. It also sets out a role for the Assembly in relation to new EU acts. The Assembly must pass an ‘applicability motion’ with cross-community support before the UK can agree for new EU acts to be added to the Protocol.



Example of a Statutory Rule
Example of a Statutory Rule

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