European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 (c. 1) is an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that makes legal provision for ratifying the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and incorporating it into the domestic law of the United Kingdom. It is the most significant constitutional piece of legislation to be passed by Parliament of the Second Johnson ministry. The Withdrawal Agreement was the result of Brexit negotiations.[1]

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to implement, and make other provision in connection with, the agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which sets out the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU.
Citation2020 c. 1
Introduced byStephen Barclay, Brexit Secretary (Commons)
Earl of Courtown, Government Deputy Chief Whip (Lords)
Territorial extent

Primarily section 1 only:

Other provisions
  • There is a power to make Regulations with extraterritorial effect in pursuance of 1971 c.77 (s.36) and 2007 c.30 (s.60(4)) under s.42(4)- this excludes Gibraltar.
  • s.42(2): "Any provision of this Act which amends or repeals an enactment has the same extent as the enactment amended or repealed."
  • s.42(5): "Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 5, so far as they relate to the modification of any provision in subordinate legislation which extends outside [the UK] also extend there"
Royal assent23 January 2020
Commencement31 January 2020
Other legislation
Relates to
Status: Amended
History of passage through Parliament
Records of Parliamentary debate relating to the statute from Hansard
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

On 24 July 2018 the Government produced a white paper on the proposed bill and how the legislation would work.[2] The bill was first introduced[3] by the government in the second session of the 57th Parliament on 21 October 2019 with the long title "A Bill to Implement, and make other provision in connection with, the agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which sets out the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU".[4] This bill was not further debated after the second reading in the Commons on 22 October 2019 and lapsed on 6 November when parliament was dissolved in preparation for the 2019 general election.

The bill was reintroduced immediately following the general election and was the first bill to be put before the House of Commons in the first session of the 58th Parliament,[5] with changes from the previous bill, by the re-elected government and was read a first time on 19 December, immediately after the first reading of the Outlawries Bill and before the debate on the Queen's Speech began. The second reading took place on 20 December, and the third on 9 January 2020.

This act was given Royal Assent on 23 January 2020, nine days before the UK left the European Union.

The Act

The Act legislates for the following:

Legislative history

On 13 November 2017, the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, announced plans for a new bill to enshrine the Withdrawal Agreement, if any, in domestic law by primary legislation. Upon further questioning in the House of Commons, Davis clarified that if MPs chose not to pass the bill, the UK would remain on course to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 without a deal as a consequence of invoking Article 50 in March 2017, after the passing of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017.[8]

Described by The Independent as the government "caving in" to Tory rebels, the bill as originally conceived would have allowed MPs to scrutinise any agreement "line-by-line", as well as make amendments.[9] Conservative MP Steve Baker, writing for The Times, claimed the new bill "gives whatever deal we strike with the EU proper standing in British law" and that it was consistent with the referendum result in providing "more control over how we are governed to the UK Parliament."[10]

The bill was introduced to Parliament for the first time on 21 October 2019, but lapsed on 6 November with the dissolution of Parliament in preparation for the December 2019 general election.

Following the attainment of a Conservative majority at the election, the bill was revised and reintroduced on 19 December, passing its second reading the following day. The December revision of the bill removed the provisions made in previous versions for parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit negotiations.[11]

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed its third and final reading in the House of Commons on 9 January 2020, with 330 in favour to 231 against.[12]

On 21 January 2020, the House of Lords passed the bill after approving five amendments to it. However, these amendments were overturned by the House of Commons on the following day.[13][14]

On 22 January 2020, the bill was passed by the House of Lords without further modifications. It received royal assent the following day.[15][16]

See also


  1. "New Bill to implement Withdrawal Agreement". Government of the United Kingdom. 13 November 2017.
  2. "Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union". Government of the United Kingdom. 24 July 2018.
  3. "European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 2019 — UK Parliament".
  4. "Government website 21 October 2019" (PDF).
  5. "European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 2019-20 — UK Parliament".
  6. European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 as amended by EU (W) A 2020
  7. Jones, Carwyn (18 January 2021). "Is Dicey dicey?". UK Constitutional Law Association. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  8. "David Davis: UK will leave EU with no deal if MPs vote down Withdrawal Bill". Herald Scotland. 13 November 2017.
  9. "MPs to get vote on new Brexit bill as Government caves in to Tory rebels". The Independent. 13 November 2017.
  10. "New bill will give parliament the full chance to do its job". The Times. 14 November 2017.
  11. Sandford, Alasdair (20 December 2019). "What has changed with Boris Johnson's new Brexit bill?". Euronews. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  12. "Brexit: MPs give final backing to Withdrawal Agreement Bill". 9 January 2020. Retrieved 19 January 2020.
  13. "Lords send amended Brexit bill back to MPs". BBC News. 21 January 2020. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  14. correspondent, Peter Walker Political (22 January 2020). "Brexit bill passes parliament as Johnson overturns Lords amendments". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  15. "Brexit bill clears final parliamentary hurdle". BBC News. 22 January 2020. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  16. "Brexit bill receives Royal Assent". BBC News. 23 January 2020. Retrieved 23 January 2020.