Op­po­si­tion warns of ‘ hell’ over Brexit bill

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

LON­DON — There’s no di­vorce with­out pa­per­work.

Just over a year af­ter Bri­tons voted to leave the Euro­pean Union, the United King­dom gov­ern­ment on Thurs­day un­veiled the first piece of leg­is­la­tion to make it a re­al­ity a 62-page bill that anti-Brexit politi­cians are al­ready vow­ing to block.

The Euro­pean Union (With­drawal) Bill aims to con­vert some 12,000 EU laws and reg­u­la­tions into UK statute on the day the coun­try leaves the bloc. That is sched­uled to be in March 2019.

All those rules can then be kept, amended or scrapped by Britain’s Par­lia­ment, ful­fill­ing the promise of anti-EU cam­paign­ers to “take back con­trol” from Brus­sels to Lon­don.

But op­po­nents of Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment fear the leg­is­la­tion gives of­fi­cials pow­ers to change laws with­out suf­fi­cient scru­tiny by law­mak­ers. They worry the gov­ern­ment could wa­ter down en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards, em­ploy­ment reg­u­la­tions or other mea­sures brought to Britain via EU law since it joined the bloc in 1973.

The di­vorce is the easy part. Leav­ing the EU takes up just a sin­gle line in the bill, re­peal­ing the Euro­pean Com­mu­ni­ties Act through which Britain en­tered the bloc.

The bulk of the bill de­scribes how all EU laws will be con­verted into Bri­tish statute. The gov­ern­ment says that will en­sure con­ti­nu­ity law on the day af­ter Brexit will be the same as on the day be­fore.

Brexit Sec­re­tary David Davis said the leg­is­la­tion will al­low Britain to leave the EU with “max­i­mum cer­tainty, con­ti­nu­ity and con­trol”.

In a com­men­tary, the Guardian news­pa­per said the re­peal bill con­tains con­tro­ver­sial new pow­ers for min­is­ters to tweak laws and cre­ate new in­sti­tu­tions, where these are deemed nec­es­sary to make EU law work when it is trans­ferred to UK law.

But, con­tentiously, it gives the gov­ern­ment pow­ers to fix “de­fi­cien­cies” in EU law by what’s known as statu­tory in­stru­ments, which can be used with­out the par­lia­men­tary scru­tiny usu­ally needed to make or amend leg­is­la­tion.

The pow­ers are tem­po­rary, ex­pir­ing two years af­ter Brex- it day. Even so, Scot­tish Na­tional Party leader Ni­cola Stur­geon branded the bill a “naked power grab”.

The bill is not ex­pected to face de­bate in Par­lia­ment un­til the fall, and May’s mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment weak­ened af­ter a bat­ter­ing in last month’s gen­eral elec­tion faces a fight.

The main op­po­si­tion Labour Party has said it would op­pose the bill un­less it met six con­di­tions, in­clud­ing guar­an­tees for work­ers’ rights. Tim Far­ron, leader of the Lib­eral Democrats, said he would work to soften May’s stance, promis­ing the prime min­is­ter that “this will be hell”.

(The leg­is­la­tion will al­low Britain to leave the EU with) max­i­mum cer­tainty, con­ti­nu­ity and con­trol.”

David Davis, Brexit Sec­re­tary

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