Skip to main content

Brexit immigration bill raises constitutional concerns, says committee

3 September 2020

The Constitution Committee publishes its 11th report of the session on the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill.


The Bill serves two main purposes: to end free movement of persons under EU law and to provide for the amendment of retained EU law governing social security co-ordination. The Committee says that the bill is of "major constitutional importance" and "raises issues of constitutional concern" that have been recurring in its scrutiny of Brexit bills.

Key findings

  • The Committee says that the immigration provisions are "worded in vague or subjective terms" and "risk making a complex area of the law even more difficult to navigate and understand for practitioners and individuals alike."
  • The central provisions of the Bill are delegated powers, including Henry VIII powers that would allow ministers to amend Acts of Parliament using secondary legislation. The Committee describes as "constitutionally unacceptable" the broad and permissive powers regarding freedom of movement that the Government is seeking.
  • The Committee also says that the Government has "failed to provide sufficient justification" for seeking broad powers relating to social security co-ordination, when it already has equivalent powers through the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
  • The Government had planned to provide Scottish ministers with equivalent powers to those for UK ministers in relation to immigration and social security co-ordination, but removed them from the Bill when it became clear the Scottish Parliament would not give legislative consent to the Bill. The Constitution Committee says that "the absence of effective inter-governmental relations and mechanisms to support them are long-standing problems" and that "Brexit has made the need to address them increasingly pressing."

Further information