If May isn’t careful, this bill will sink under the weight of all its amendmentsby Tom Brake / July 12, 2017 / Leave a comment
The new parliamentary session is getting underway, and tomorrow the government will introduce its “Repeal Bill”—the most significant step yet in the Brexit process. This will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, which gives primacy to EU law. All existing EU legislation will then be transposed into British law. At least, that’s the government’s plan.
This might look like a simple exercise, but in practice it will be anything but. It will be an enormously complicated project, with major swathes of the statute book needing examination in order to see how they will work after Brexit. The government believes that the total body of European law, dating back to 1958, is of around 80,000 items. This includes regulations, EU treaties, directions and European Court of Justice rulings.
In order to get through this mass of legislation within two years, and with minimal disruption to individuals and businesses, the government is proposing to use “Henry VIII powers,” which would enable it to legislate without the usual parliamentary scrutiny.
This is deeply suspect. Given that many Tories have made it clear that they want to use Brexit to scrap workplace rights and environmental standards, currently enshrined in EU law, we are calling for proper oversight and transparency. It is incredibly ironic that after Brexiters spent years calling for more powers to be devolved to parliament, the government is attempting to steamroller the democratic process. The Liberal Democrats will not accept this.
And that is why, as the process gets underway, the government should prepare for legislative war.
We will push the government to guarantee commitment to high standards for the environment, health and safety, consumer protection, as well as employment and equalities rights that the UK currently adheres to as an EU member. After all, nobody voted in June last year to diminish their rights, make themselves poorer or to make their country less safe.
“The government is attempting to steamroller the democratic process”
If the government tries to pull a fast one, then the Repeal Bill risks looking like a Christmas tree with branches weighted down with the number of amendments tacked on.
We will also use this opportunity to bring some pragmatism back into the Brexit debate. This is a moment to finally focus on substance, rather than the…