Amongst the seismic political debates surrounding the passing of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 (Bill), it is arguable that the Bill’s effects on local authorities have not received the publicity that they deserve.
There are few ways in which the Bill will affect local authorities in a less significant manner than business and industry. Local authorities and their services are large employers, for example, and are affected by EU laws, regulations and decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union in respect of numerous functions from licensing, procurement of goods and services to health and safety. Certainty about local authorities’ legal powers and duties will be ever more important if disputes about funding, which could result from Brexit more widely, arise. As the Local Government Association (LGA) has identified in a recent briefing paper on the Bill, it would be disappointing to many local authorities if the powers they have been afforded were (re-)centralised to Westminster, in parallel with the devolved administrations’ complaints of a “power grab” in this respect.
On the other hand, further powers may be afforded to local authorities where these were once exercised by EU institutions, or more onerous obligations lightened (as the LGA recognises, a lighter-touch procurement system would be welcomed by many). After passing its second reading, the Bill has some way to go. It is important that its effects on local government administration are considered in the same light as others’ concerns.
Practical Law will continue to track and comment on developments on its Brexit legislation pages and through its European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19: legislation tracker. Further detailed analysis on the Bill can be read in this article by Daniel Greenberg, published earlier on this blog, and in our Practice note, European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19: legislating for Brexit.
This article previously appeared in the Lawyers in Local Government bulletin.