How Much Time Does It Take to Get Brexit Through Parliament?

(Bloomberg) -- How much time does Parliament need to prepare for Brexit? Although the focus has been on the vote on Theresa May’s deal, that won’t be the end of her Parliamentary difficulties.

Government officials last year estimated that passing the European Union Withdrawal Bill -- the piece of legislation that makes Brexit happen -- would take six months. With less than two months to go, it still hasn’t been published. One of the members of Parliament trying to draft an alternative Brexit strategy for the prime minister estimates that the government will still need to win 50 legislative votes after its deal has been approved.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that, if Parliament really wants to, it can pass laws very quickly. On Sept. 1, 1939, Parliament passed 18 bills into law, despite not beginning its work until 6 p.m. One bill completed all of its House of Commons stages in just two minutes. The sitting finished just before midnight.

Of course, that was on the eve of war, with MPs united. Brexit is unlikely to be so straightforward. But this explains May’s focus on finding a deal that almost all of her Conservative Party can vote for. For all its public divisions, this is the coalition that she can most rely upon to vote things through quickly, if she can only hold it together.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.