After the introduction of the Brexit Bill – or ‘Great Repeal Bill’ – in the UK Parliament earlier this year, great debates and tensions have risen between the walls of the House of Commons. Last night, it escalated into a late-night debate, and eventually into the MPs’ decision to predominantly vote for the ‘Repeal Bill’.
Indeed, MPs voted to back the Bill with a 326 to 290 vote. It has been reached thanks to Theresa May and her majority, composed by the Conservative and its ally, the Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUC). This does not mean that the legislation has passed however, but that it is now going to be read more thoroughly and with more scrutiny by parliamentarians.
As a reminder, the Brexit Bill represents the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act which welcomed the UK within the European Economic Community (EEC), predecessor of the EU. The 1972 Act gave EU laws primacy over British legislations. Therefore, withdrawing it will give its independence back to the UK, at least in terms of primacy of its laws over EU ones.
The Bill also seeks to ensure a smooth continuity between the UK before and after the Brexit. EU regulations need to be transferred to the British statute books, for individuals and businesses to clearly know where the UK will stand after 2019.
The ‘Repeal Bill’ thus includes provisions to smoothen this transfer. However, this has been highly criticized by the Labour party, which describes it as a ‘power grab’ by Theresa May and her government.
The smoothening will indeed be achieved using what is referred to as the ‘Henry VIII’ powers, which are included in the Bill. With these latter, amendments to EU laws to suit the British context will be more easily passed, but this has also been regarded as an unprecedented violation of the UK Parliament’s sovereignty.
The ‘Henry VIII’ clauses actually give the right to modify EU laws to UK Ministers and even civil servants, to avoid ‘wasting’ time voting every amendment in the Parliament. Jeremy Corbyn and the rest of the opposition have condemned the clauses, pointing out they were a way for the government to avoid full scrutiny by the Parliament.
Nonetheless, the government is far from being done with the EU Withdrawal Bill. There are about 12,000 EU regulations which will have to be modified and adapted to fit in the UK legislative context. And with the Labour party firmly opposing the ‘Repeal Bill’, it appears that the struggle will be permanent to get this piece of legislation enacted for good.
For further information:
France 24: http://www.france24.com/en/20170912-uk-lawmakers-back-eu-withdrawal-repeal-bill-brexit
The Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/world/brexit-copy-and-paste-repeal-bill-a-step-closer-20170912-gyfic6.html
The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/great-repeal-bill-explanation-need-read/
UK Parliament Website: http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2017/september/commons-european-union-withdrawal-bill/