This question comes from today's statement by Tusk that "a short extension will be possible but to be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons." This makes me wonder why an extension of any length would be necessary if the withdrawal agreement (WA) gets approved prior to Brexit day? It is my understanding that at this point some legislation would not be able to pass in time. What legislation are we talking about? What would go wrong if we reach 29 March 2019 with an approved WA but without an agreed extension?

I am not asking about the likeliness of this scenario happening. I only hope that it is realistic enough to influence the thinking of politicians today and that as such this question doesn't fall under absurd hypotheticals, which would be off topic.

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    It is nearly three years since the referencum, and those proposals haven't been readied yet?! "Incompetence" is the nicest word I can think of.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 19:37

1 Answer 1


On the UK side, the biggest target is the proposed European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, which would be intended (among many other things) to "undo" the effects of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 such that EU law (and changes to it) continues to operate during the transition period named in the withdrawal agreement, and to provide mechanisms for parliamentary scrutiny of ongoing changes.

In principle, the original Withdrawal Act provides options for Ministers to make any necessary changes via "Henry the VIIIth powers" and statutory instruments (that is, effectively writing a letter saying what the new laws are). However a suitably upset House could object to this behaviour and lead to an awkward mess where a) EU law doesn't apply when it should b) It applies when it shouldn't or c) no-one knowing what the law is. In all cases one can expect people to look around for someone to sue and repeats of the kind of mistakes which have already cost the UK government millions of pounds.

  • To nitpick, Henry VIII powers are implemented by statutory instrument (SI), rather than being a separate thing; and the key difference between these and normal SIs is that they are a form of secondary legislation which can amend Acts of Parliament (normally only Acts can amend other Acts). SIs of this sort still have to be approved by Parliament, but the process is much quicker compared to Acts of Parliament, and is normally subject to much less scrutiny. Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 22:19

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