Transitional Brexit: Interventions on Bureaucratic Activity in the United Kingdom

Shaun Bevan, Zachary Greene

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The process of leaving the European Union has set off a massive and transformative change to its internal system of government. Central to this process, the so-called “Great Repeal Bill” aims to revise and transcribe all European legislation into UK law through the use of secondary legislation, called statutory instruments. As a form of government transition, we propose that understanding how this process might affect the bureaucratic activity of creating statutory instruments requires a robust theory of political transitions. Like policy change through primary legislation, large changes in the ideological goals of the government such as a transition in the party controlling the cabinet will redirect the priority of policies developed through instruments. To examine this perspective, we aim to understand partisan and political transitions in the UK over 30 years, from 1987 to 2016. Intervention analyses show strong and often lasting effects on the policy content of statutory instruments following the election of Labour in 1997. Although secondary legislation is generally thought to reflect non-partisan, bureaucratic goals, we expect to find evidence that the massive change in the production of statutory instruments reflects the policy priorities of the governing party. While the policy coding of instruments for the latest period is still underway, the Conservative government produced historically low levels of secondary legislation in its first two years in office, a trend it is continuing to follow. The UK needs new rules and regulations to manage an orderly break with the EU, but the question remains whether or not it has the capacity to write them, let alone to write them well.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2018


  • bureaucracy
  • public policy
  • parties
  • Brexit
  • United Kingdom


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