Parliamentary Officer's Blog - 21 June 2017

For the 62nd time, Her Majesty the Queen has delivered a speech at Westminster outlining the legislative priorities for the UK Government.  Usually an affair full of pomp and ceremony, the speech this morning was a more sombre affair, scaled back in grandeur according to Parliamentary Officer Clare Slipper.

The speech, itself, contained plans for 27 new bills to be introduced over the next two years of the new parliament. Eight of the bills deal directly with Brexit and its implementation, with the rest focusing on economic growth, civil rights and safety. 

Today’s Queen’s Speech is an important indicator of the direction in which Theresa May’s government will take the UK in the period leading up to EU exit.  However, being a statement of legislative intentions, it is thin on detail.

The main meat of the legislative programme is centred around the Repeal Bill, which will effectively ‘cut and paste’ EU laws, rules and regulatory frameworks into UK law on the day of the UK’s exit from the EU, ensuring that generally the same rules and laws will continue to apply.

Significantly, the Bill will replicate the common UK frameworks created by EU law into UK law – such as the Common Agricultural Policy. The Bill will ensure that “intensive discussion and consultation with the devolved administrations on where lasting common frameworks are needed” takes place.

This could prove a point of consternation between the UK and Scottish Governments, with the Scottish Government, supported by SNP MPs in Westminster, arguing for all powers over agriculture, rural development and fisheries to be repatriated directly to the Scottish Government on the day of exit. 

Of particular interest for our sector, an Agriculture Bill will be introduced in the next two years which will deliver on the Conservative manifesto pledge to “provide stability for farmers as we exit the EU” by putting an effective system in place to support UK farmers and protect the natural environment. 

The Bill will “support farmers to compete domestically and on the global market, consulting widely with the devolved administrations on the appropriate extent of any legislation”. 

Indeed, the notion of consultation with the devolved administrations could be another potential pressure point over the next two years. NFU Scotland has consistently argued that UK Government must take the views of the devolved nations into account, and it is welcome that the Queen’s Speech documents appear to have hammed up the language regarding engagement with the devolved administrations. However, significantly, the documents contain no concrete proposals about how this would actually be delivered – so the extent and depth of how that joint working will be taken forward remains to be seen. 

Other proposals of particular interest are:

• A Customs Bill, which will create a standalone UK customs regime on exit whilst retaining flexibility to accommodate future trade agreements with the EU and others. 

• A Trade Bill, which will put in place the essential and necessary legislative framework to allow the UK to operate its own independent trade policy upon exit from the European Union.

• An Immigration Bill, which will allow the UK Government to repeal EU law on immigration – primarily free movement – and establish new powers concerning the immigration status of nationals form the EU. The Bill will also grant the UK Government powers to control the number of people coming to the UK from the EU. 

The Repeal Bill will set out the direction on how EU rules, regulations and frameworks will be transposed in UK and Scots law following Brexit, and after that point the other bills – on agriculture, immigration, trade and customs – will be fleshed out much further.

Although detail is thin just now, the language in the Statement – around establishing a new Customs Schedule for the UK, and ending freedom of movement – suggests that the Prime Minister is not wavering on her preferred Brexit approach to leave the EU Single Market and Customs Union. 

Whether that will stay unchecked as she attempts to drive the legislative programme through with a minority of Conservative MPs remains to be seen (and this is even before the final agreement between Theresa May’s Conservatives and the DUP has been ratified).

One thing is clear: this legislative programme has created a huge role for NFU Scotland over the next two years, to digest how the proposals will translate for Scottish farming and crofting and to ensure that your best interests are served.

It’s more important than ever that we hear from you so that the Union can strongly and robustly represent your views. We look forward to discussions this week at the Royal Highland Show and at regional shows over the summer months. You can also get in touch with us directly at 

Author: Clare Slipper

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About The Author

Clare Slipper

Clare Slipper joined NFU Scotland in 2014 as the Union’s first dedicated Parliamentary Officer. Within her role, Clare briefs politicians in the Scottish, Westminster and European parliaments on key issues impacting Scottish food producers and represents members interests in the policy-making process. Clare started her career working for a public affairs and communications agency, where she worked with clients in the renewable energy and planning sectors. She graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in Politics and Sociology in 2012.

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