Which Brexit Acts have passed the UK Parliament? What was and is the timeline for Brexit?

The UK is currently in a transition period, having left the EU at the end of January 2020. The legislation is needed to ensure the UK has measures in place to replace the EU laws, when transition ends on 31 December 2020. We look at what's been approved and when what happens now.

The House of Common's library message explains what legislation is required, what has already been passed and what is left to pass.

To date, Parliament has enacted seven Acts associated with the process of exiting the EU:

  • European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020

  • European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018

  • Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018

  • Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018

  • Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018

  • Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018

  • Healthcare (European Economic Area and Switzerland Arrangements) Act 2019.

Which Brexit Bills are going through Parliament?

Trade Bill 2019-21

This Bill aims to provide continuity for UK trade relations at the end of the transition period. It would allow the UK to use secondary legislation to “roll over” trade relations with countries the EU already has a trade agreement with.

The Bill would also establish a UK Trade Remedies Authority. This would take over the EU’s current function to act against unfair competition from ‘dumped’ goods, imported at artificially low prices. It would also enable Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to seek and share trade-related information. The Bill passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 20 May 2020.It is expected to complete its scrutiny stage in a Public Bill Committee by 25 June 2020.

Agriculture Bill 2019-21

The UK left the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on exiting the EU on 30 January 2020.

The Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Act 2020 continues direct payments to farmers across the UK. Payments are based on the amount of land they farm. These payments are like those paid under the CAP for 2020.

The Agriculture Bill contains arrangements for future agricultural support.

There will be a new approach to farm support in England from 2021. It will include payment to farmers for ‘public goods’ such as environmental or animal welfare improvements. Ministers will also be required to consider the need to encourage food production and ensure food security.

Concern has been expressed that the Agriculture Bill contains no commitment that food and animal welfare standards will not be reduced in future trade deals. The Bill does contain provisions to secure compliance with the WTO Agreement on Agriculture.

The Bill has passed all its Commons stages and is scheduled for Second Reading in the Lords on 10 June 2020.

Fisheries Bill 2019-21

From 1 January 2021 the UK will cease to be part of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It will become an independent coastal state and fully responsible for managing fisheries in the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Fisheries Bill gives the Secretary of State the ability to set and distribute fishing opportunities in UK waters. It also revokes the automatic right of access to UK waters of EU vessels.

The UK and EU aim to reach an agreement on fisheries before 1 July 2020. So far negotiations have not reconciled their positions.

The Bill was introduced in the Lords and is scheduled for Report Stage on 24 June 2020 before reaching its Commons stages.

Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2019-21

This Bill would repeal the free movement rights of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens in the UK. It would protect Irish citizens’ existing immigration rights.

The legislation would also allow retained EU law on social security co-ordination to be modified by regulations. The Government says this will be necessary, “whether the UK has a future agreement with the EU at the end of the transition period or not.”

The Bill’s committee stage is due to be completed by 25 June 2020.

Environment Bill 2019-21

Part 1 of the Bill, on environmental governance and principles, stems from a draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill. This was published in December 2018.

The draft Bill was based on an amendment added into the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The amendment addressed concerns about a perceived loss of established environmental principles and EU governance mechanisms following Brexit.

The Bill has reached committee stage in the Commons, which is scheduled to be completed by 25 June 2020.

Which Brexit Bills are due to be introduced in the 2019-21 Session?

There are two further anticipated Bills which are deemed necessary to allow the UK to smoothly depart the transition period.

These two Bills have not been introduced to Parliament yet.

Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [HL] 2017-19

Most financial services regulation is currently done at the EU level. The Financial Services Bill enables the Treasury to make corresponding or similar provisions in UK law to upcoming EU financial services legislation.

If the transition period ends with no deal, without this Bill, there will be no mechanism in UK law through which financial services regulation can be updated.

Before the 2019 General Election, the Bill completed its stages in the Lords and had reached committee stage in the Commons. But it progressed no further.

Financial services legislation was announced in the December 2019 Queen’s Speech but has not yet been introduced.

Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill

EU Law recognises animals as sentient beings. Before the 2019 General Election, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill 2017-19, aimed at increasing sentences for animal cruelty,did not complete its parliamentary stages.

The Queen’s Speech in December 2019 announced the intention to introduce these measures in animal welfare legislation.

Timeline for Brexit

In a referendum held on 23 June 2016, the majority of those who voted chose to leave the European Union.

On 29 March 2017, in writing to European Council President Donald Tusk, the Prime Minister formally triggered Article 50 and began the two-year countdown to the UK formally leaving the EU (commonly known as ‘Brexit’).

The UK had long been expected to leave the European Union at 11pm on 29 March 2019.  However, following a House of Commons vote on 14 March 2019, the Government sought permission from the EU to extend Article 50 and agree a later Brexit date.

On 20 March 2019 the Prime Minister wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk, asking to extend Article 50 until 30 June 2019.

Following a European Council meeting the next day, EU27 leaders agreed to grant an extension comprising two possible dates: 22 May 2019, should the Withdrawal Agreement gain approval from MPs; or 12 April 2019, should the Withdrawal Agreement not be approved by the House of Commons.

On 2 April 2019, the Prime Minister announced she will seek a further extension to the Article 50 process and offered to meet the Leader of the Opposition to agree a deal that can win the support of MPs.

At a meeting of the European Council on 10 April 2019, the UK and EU27 agreed to extend Article 50 until 31 October 2019.

On 19 October 2019, the Prime Minister’s new Brexit deal was lost on amendment in the Commons.  In accordance with the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 – commonly known as the ‘Benn Act’ – the Prime Minister wrote to European Council president Donald Tusk, to request an extension to the Brexit process.

On 28 October 2019, EU Ambassadors agreed a further Brexit extension to 31 January 2020. The Prime Minister confirmed the UK’s agreement to this.

On 12 December 2019, Boris Johnson won a majority in the UK General Election and reaffirmed his commitment to ‘get Brexit done‘ by 31 January 2020.

On 23 January 2020, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act received Royal Assent.  This is the legislation that will implement the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the UK and the EU.

At 11pm on 31 January 2020, the UK left the European Union and entered a transition period that is due to run until the end of the year.

Timeline Paper

which provides a timeline of the major events leading up to the referendum and subsequent dates of note, including Brexit Day itself.  This paper also provides information on negotiations on the UK-EU future relationship as the implementation period continues.

PDF • 1.15MB


1. House of Common Library: Brexit legislation: What has passed and what is yet to come?


2. House of Common Library: Brexit timeline: events leading to the UK’s exit from the European Union



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