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Some Brexit legislation will not be ready for March 29, says Number 10

File photo dated 28/1/2019 of the Union and EU flags. Theresa May is facing a fresh attempt by a cross-party group of MPs to prevent a no-deal Brexit if she cannot reach an agreement with Brussels by mid-March. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 13, 2019. The group, including Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Tory former minister Sir Oliver Letwin, have said they are ready to table an amendment enabling Parliament to force ministers to seek a delay if there is no deal in place. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

By Andrew Woodcock, Press Association Political Editor

The Government will not have completed all of the secondary legislation needed to prepare for life after Brexit by the time of the UK's scheduled withdrawal from the EU on March 29, Downing Street has said.

A spokeswoman confirmed that certain pieces of legislation have been "deprioritised" and will be dealt with after Brexit day.

But she insisted that all "vital" changes to the statute book will be ready in time for the UK's withdrawal, whether it happens with or without a deal with the EU.

"We are on track to deliver the Statutory Instruments (SIs) we need for exit day and we have already laid over 80% of these," said Number 10.

Writing on the ConservativeHome website, former agriculture minister George Eustice - who quit the Government last week to fight for Brexit - said: "The civil service has done a sterling job preparing for no deal. We are in the process of laying hundreds of Statutory Instruments to make retained EU law operable.

"There are a few that have been deprioritised and will not be done by the end of March but, when I went through the small number that were being left behind, it was pretty clear that they were a collection of inconsequential rules that were either not particularly relevant to the UK anyway or were where alternative powers already existed."

The Number 10 spokeswoman confirmed this position, telling reporters: "We are prioritising those that we can secure on time and prioritising the most important SIs.

"We have made quite a lot of progress on those, but clearly the timetable is short to March 29 and it's sensible that the Government would choose to prioritise secondary legislation that is vital for our departure in the event of no deal."

Up to 600 SIs need to be passed through Parliament as a result of Brexit, many of them making minor amendments to pieces of legislation which refer to EU institutions and procedures which will no longer be relevant to the UK.

By Thursday, the Government had laid 487 of them before Parliament and 284 had been completed, the spokeswoman said.

"We are taking advice as to the legislation we need in anticipation of making sure the statute book is ready," she said.

"We are pushing to make sure the most important are in place, and putting in place mitigations for those that are not.

"We will make sure that our statute book is ready. If that involves prioritising certain pieces of legislation, then we will do that and work very hard on the other side of March 29 to push the rest through as quickly as possible."

The Government also needs to pass six Bills ahead of a no-deal Brexit on the issues of trade, agriculture, fisheries, immigration, healthcare and financial services.

Asked whether these would all clear Parliament by March 29, the spokeswoman said: "We've said the statute book will be ready and that's what we are working to achieve."