Winston Churchill once described Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. The Brexit process could perhaps be described in similar terms. That said, slowly but surely the Government (through choice or compulsion) is unveiling more detail about Brexit, including how the UK will leave the European Union (EU) and the nature of domestic law following the UK’s departure.

This blog explores two recent examples: the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2016-17; and the Government’s White Paper on its Brexit strategy, which was released today.

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2016-17

Following the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Miller case (see our previous blogs here and here), the Government was compelled to introduce a Bill to Parliament to provide it with the necessary legal authority to trigger Article 50. Alongside the Bill, the Government published Explanatory Notes. These notes, which are in produced as a matter of course when a Bill is introduced to Parliament, were prepared by the Department for Exiting the European Union (DEXU). Although they do not form part of the Bill, the notes explain what DEXU thinks each part of the Bill will mean in practice.

Paragraph 17 of the Notes is uncontroversial. It reads:

Clause 1(1) provides power for the Prime Minister to notify the European Council of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union.

Paragraph 18 is more noteworthy. It reads:

The power that is provided by clause 1(1) applies to withdrawal from the EU. This includes the European Atomic Energy Community (‘Euratom’), as the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 sets out that the term "EU" includes (as the context permits or requires) Euratom (section 3(2)).

This is the first time the Government has confirmed that the UK will be leaving Euratom following our departure from the EU.

Professor Steve Peers, an expert commentator on EU law, argues that “leaving Euratom is an inevitable consequence of Brexit”. He explains why in detail in his blog post (see here).

Nevertheless, the consequences for the UK nuclear industry could, it goes without saying, be momentous. In particular, the UK’s withdrawal from the Euratom treaty could conceivably affect aspects of the development of the Hinkley Point C project.

Government White Paper on Brexit

On 2 February 2017, the Government published its much anticipated White Paper on its Brexit strategy.

The document, entitled The United Kingdom’s Exit from, and New Partnership with, the European Union, outlines the 12 principles that will guide the UK Government’s approach to Brexit:

  1. Providing certainty and clarity;
  2. Taking control of our own laws;
  3. Strengthening the Union;
  4. Protecting our strong historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the Common Travel Area;
  5. Controlling immigration;
  6. Securing rights for EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU;
  7. Protecting workers’ rights;
  8. Ensuring free trade with European markets;
  9. Securing new trade agreements with other countries;
  10. Ensuring the United Kingdom remains the best place for science and innovation;
  11. Cooperating in the fight against crime and terrorism; and
  12. Delivering a smooth, orderly exit from the EU.

The White Paper provides further detail on each of these 12 principles. As with the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill Explanatory Notes, the White Paper provides snippets of new information about Brexit. For example, it confirms that there will be a vote in both Houses of Parliament on the terms of the final deal between the EU and the UK.