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Lords EU exit regulations: 27 March

28 March 2019


On Wednesday 27 March, the House of Lords examined two statutory instruments preparing for Brexit.

A statutory instrument (SI), a type of secondary legislation, is a law created under powers given by an Act of Parliament. It is used to fill in the details of Acts (primary legislation).

The proposed SIs make changes to laws on:

  1. The date of EU withdrawal
  2. NHS and cross-border healthcare

The Brexit SIs under examination on Wednesday 27 March were all made under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

The regulations on the date of EU withdrawal seek to change the date of ‘exit day' in the EU (Withdrawal) Act to 12 April 2019 if the House of Commons does not agree a withdrawal agreement, or 22 May 2019 if the House of Commons does agree a withdrawal agreement by 29 March 2019.

The SI on the NHS and cross-border healthcare are changes to the law to be made in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement.

All these SIs are made under the draft affirmative procedure, meaning they need to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before they can be made (signed into law) and brought into effect. Draft affirmative SIs can be stopped if either House votes against the government's motion calling for the SI to be approved.

Motion against the regulations

Both of the EU exit regulations under consideration have had motions to regret laid against them. If these motions are agreed to, they will not stop the regulations, but will provide the House with an opportunity to put on record its regret for the specified reasons:

Baroness Thornton (Labour) proposed a regret motion against the SI on the NHS and cross-border healthcare.

The regret motion was laid on the grounds that the government has failed to ensure that the regulations comply to proper legislative practice, which has led to a lack of clarity concerning the specific rights that will cease to be available in domestic law.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Labour) proposed a regret motion against the regulations to change the date of EU 'exit day'.

This regret motion recognises the necessity of the regulations, but was laid on the grounds that the government's manner in conducting EU withdrawal negotiations has led to widespread uncertainty in the UK regarding the status of EU citizens and has undermined business confidence.

The motion calls on the government to pursue, without hesitation, any course of action approved by the House of Commons in relation to those negotiations.

Members discussed each of the regret motions, which were both withdrawn without a vote.

Following the debates on the floor of the House, the two SIs under consideration were approved.

Lords scrutiny

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC) examines every SI, including all EU Exit SIs. It publishes reports drawing members' attention to SIs.

The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (JCSI), comprised of members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, considers the legal drafting of SIs, and brings 'special attention' to SIs in its reports.

Further information

Image: Creative Commons