Brexit: What's in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill?

Brexit: What's in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill?
By Pauline Bock
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The British parliament published on Monday the government's Withdrawal Agreement bill (WAB).


Many MPs are furious that Boris Johnson chose to publish his Withdrawal Agreement Biill at 8 pm the night before a vote on whether to approve it in the House of Commons.

At 110 pages long and with some 64 pages of amendments, that gives critics little time to read and understand a bill that - once approved - will become law and bind the government's hands in future negotiations with the EU over a trade deal.

Even at 110 pages, the agreement is bare bones. It commits to border checks between Britain and Nothern Ireland to avoid a hard border on the island, but not how these will work.

What's in the bill?

Key points include:

- The bill sets the transition period for the UK to leave the EU to the end of 2020, although it can be extended once for up to two years providing that both London and Brussels agree before July 1, 2020.

This means that EU law will continue to be upheld in the UK until the end of 2020.

- The bill provides for customs checks on goods being moved between Britain and Northern Ireland in order to avoid a hard border on the island, but it says very little about how they will be implemented, according to the Institute for Government.

- It sets up an independent monitoring authority to monitor the rights of EU citizens that want to stay in the UK after Brexit.

- The bill 'repeals' specific approval rules - the so-called 'meaningful vote' - to allow the government to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement as soon as it is passed by parliament.

- It also ensures that parliament will get a vote on the negotiations for the EU future relationship as well as on the final trade deal.

Read the bill in full

What happens next?

The leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said on Monday that the House of Commons would vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill starting Tuesday and until Thursday.

If the WAB cannot get past parliament in time for 31 October, the deadline set by the EU, then the UK would leave the EU on that date without a deal. But the Benn Act demanded that PM Boris Johnson sends a letter to the EU to request an extension, which Johnson did last weekend. The EU could grant the UK an extension until 31 January 2020, as asked, or to another date.

The European Parliament will be the final actor to have its say on the withdrawal agreement, the European Parliament's president, David Sassoli, said after the bill's publication on Monday.

The Bill has to be approved by both the British and European parliaments.

Read more: What could derail Boris Johnson's EU divorce deal?

The WAB's length 'doesn't give much time' for MPs to read it

Shortly after the bill's publication, MPs took to social media to regret the short time they would have to read the bill's 110 pages and the 124 additional pages of explanatory notes.

"This is an unprecedentedly short period of time to dedicate to a massive and momentous piece of legislation," the MP Chris Leslie said in parliament after the Bill was introduced for its first reading.


Read more:

**What's in Boris Johnson's Brexit deal with the European Union?

Brexit Guide: Where are we now?

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