Brexit: Repeal bill published by the government

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Theresa May with flags.
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MPs must “work together” on Brexit, the minister in charge of the UK’s EU exit has said, as he published a bill to convert EU law into British law.

The legislation, known as the repeal bill, will ensure the same rules apply in the UK after Brexit, while giving the UK Parliament power to change them.

David Davis says he will “work with anyone” to make it a success.

But Labour wants changes and Nicola Sturgeon has threatened to block it, calling it a “power grab”.

Labour says it will not support the bill in its current form and is demanding concessions in six areas, including the incorporation of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights into British law.

They want guarantees workers rights will be protected and curbs on the power of government ministers to alter legislation being copied into UK law without full parliamentary scrutiny.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was in Brussels earlier for a meeting with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, said: “Far too much of it seems to be a process where the government will decide through statutory instruments and therefore will be able to bypass Parliament.

“We will make sure there is full parliamentary scrutiny. We have a Parliament where the government doesn’t have a majority, we have a country which voted in two ways on Leave or Remain.

“The majority voted to leave and we respect that, but they didn’t vote to lose jobs and they didn’t vote to have Parliament ridden roughshod over.”

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EPA

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Jeremy Corbyn presented Michel Barnier with an Arsenal shirt

The Scottish and Welsh governments have to give “legislative consent” to the repeal bill before it can become law – something the Scottish and Welsh governments have said they are not willing to do.

In a joint statement, first ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones, who also met Mr Barnier, described the bill as a “naked power-grab” by Westminster that undermined the principles of devolution.

They say the bill returns powers from Brussels solely to the UK government and Parliament and “imposes new restrictions” on the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.


The repeal bill

  • Formally known as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the draft legislation is a key plank of the government’s Brexit strategy
  • The first line of the bill says the European Communities Act 1972, which took Britain into the EU, will be “repealed on exit day”
  • This will end the supremacy of EU law and stop the flow of new regulations from Brussels
  • But all existing laws derived from the EU will continue to be in force – they can be changed or scrapped by further legislation
  • The bill does not detail policies line-by-line but transfers all regulations into domestic law
  • It gives the UK two years after Brexit to correct any “deficiencies” arising from the transfer

UK Scottish Secretary David Mundell claimed the repeal bill would, in fact, result in a powers “bonanza” for Holyrood – a comment described as “ludicrous” by the SNP.

But Mr Mundell said although there would be a row about “process” he was confident legislative consent would be gained from the devolved administrations.

At Westminster, the Conservatives are relying on Democratic Unionist Party support to win key votes after losing their Commons majority in the general election, but could face a revolt from Remain supporting backbenchers.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said there could be “parliamentary guerrilla warfare” on the bill, as opposition parties and “Remainer Tories” try to “put their version of Brexit, not Theresa May’s, on to the statute book”.

The repeal bill is not expected to be debated by MPs until the Autumn, but will need to have been passed by the time the UK leaves the EU – which is due to happen in March 2019.

Mr Davis said it would allow the UK to leave the EU with “maximum certainty, continuity and control”.

“It is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that has ever passed through Parliament and is a major milestone in the process of our withdrawal from the European Union,” he said.

“By working together, in the national interest, we can ensure we have a fully functioning legal system on the day we leave the European Union.

“The eyes of the country are on us and I will work with anyone to achieve this goal and shape a new future for our country.”


Analysis by BBC Political Correspondent Chris Mason

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The European Union Withdrawal Bill amounts to a giant exercise in cutting and pasting – taking the laws made in Brussels and that apply here, and turning them into UK law.

Then, over time, parliament will be able to change those laws as it sees fit.

But, in addition to that, the government will have to pass laws in areas it will suddenly have sole control over, such as immigration. The task ahead – as complicated as it is controversial – is colossal and with a tight deadline. It will dominate parliament’s work.


Tim Farron, whose party is seeking to join forces with Labour and Tory rebels, said he was “putting the government on warning”, promising a tougher test than than it faced when passing legislation authorising the UK’s departure from the EU.

“If you found the Article 50 Bill difficult, you should be under no illusion, this will be hell,” he said.

Steve Baker, a minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union, said the government was “ready” for a fight over the bill but would also to “listen to Parliament”.

Separately, the government has also published three position papers for exit negotiations.

One covers nuclear materials and safeguards issues, the focus of a fierce debate among MPs concerned about the UK quitting Europe’s nuclear safety regulator.

The other two papers cover ongoing judicial and administrative proceedings, and privileges and immunities.

They will be presented to the European Commission for discussion in the second round of formal exit negotiations in Brussels next week.

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