Bri­tain launches im­por­tant leg­is­la­tion to sever ties with the EU

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Wil­liam James and Eliz­a­beth Piper

BRI­TAIN launched leg­is­la­tion yes­ter­day to sever po­lit­i­cal, fi­nan­cial and le­gal ties with the EU, an im­por­tant step to­wards Brexit, but one which the op­po­si­tion said it would chal­lenge.

The Re­peal Bill is cen­tral to the gov­ern­ment’s plan to exit the EU in 2019, dis­en­tan­gling Bri­tain from more than 40 years of EU law­mak­ing and re­peal­ing the treaty that first made Bri­tain a mem­ber in 1972.

Its pas­sage through par­lia­ment could make or break May’s fu­ture as prime min­is­ter. The elec­tion she called last month cost her an out­right par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity and re­opened the de­bate on the na­ture of Bri­tain’s EU exit.

“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 EU,” Brexit min­is­ter David Davis said.

The gov­ern­ment also fleshed out its ne­go­ti­at­ing stance with the EU, pub­lish­ing three po­si­tion pa­pers which un­der­lined that Bri­tain would quit nu­clear body Eu­ratom and leave the ju­ris­dic­tion of the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice.

Within May’s Con­ser­va­tive Party, pro-Brexit law­mak­ers are fiercely de­fen­sive of her plan for a clean break with the EU. Pro-Euro­peans are look­ing to ex­tract con­ces­sions that soften the di­vorce terms.

Re­bel­lion by ei­ther side could de­rail the leg­is­la­tion and test May’s abil­ity to ne­go­ti­ate a com­pro­mise or find sup­port from op­po­si­tion par­ties. If she fails, her po­si­tion could swiftly be­come un­ten­able.

First step

The pub­li­ca­tion of the bill is the first step in a long leg­isla­tive process, with no for­mal de­bate in par­lia­ment ex­pected yes­ter­day. It will be closely ex­am­ined to see how the gov­ern­ment plans to carry out the dif­fi­cult and time-con­sum­ing tech­ni­cal ex­er­cise of trans­pos­ing EU law.

The bill set out pow­ers for min­is­ters, with the ap­proval of par­lia­ment, to cor­rect laws to en­sure that they work after be­ing brought into Bri­tish law.

These pow­ers will ex­ist un­til two years after the day Bri­tain leaves.

Law­mak­ers have ex­pressed con­cern that the sheer vol­ume of work could limit their abil­ity to scru­ti­nise the changes ef­fec­tively and fear that the gov­ern­ment will in­tro­duce pol­icy change by the back door.

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 bill will also face scru­tiny from Bri­tish com­pa­nies, many of which have spent the year since Bri­tons voted by 52 per­cent to 48 per­cent to leave the EU try­ing to fig­ure out how the change will af­fect their busi­ness.

“A leg­isla­tive tran­si­tion of this scope has never be­fore been un­der­taken,” Adam Mar­shall, di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Bri­tish Cham­bers of Com­merce, said.

“We will be keep­ing a watch­ful eye for the pos­si­bil­ity of un­in­tended con­se­quences that lead to new bur­dens or com­pli­ance costs, whether par­tic­u­lar firms, sec­tors or the econ­omy as a whole,” Mar­shall said.

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