Hot on the heels of triggering Brexit, the British government has released the Great Repeal Bill to scrap or adapt EU laws covering everything from rights for workers to looking after the environment.
The draft bill is to make sure that EU laws are transferred to British statute book by the time the Brexit talks are scheduled to end on March 29, 2019, otherwise the legal system could unravel as lawyers argue which laws still apply.
On March 29, 2019, no EU laws will apply in the UK unless they have been passed by Parliament.
The act is a copy and paste exercise to plaster over any gaps – Parliament may take years to scrutinise and go through each rule after Brexit.
What does the Great Repeal Bill do?
The main strands of the Great Repeal Bill remove any powers the EU has over British sovereignty, including:
- Scraps the European Communities Act which gives the EU law supremacy over British law
- Removes the power giving European Courts of Justice more authority than the Supreme Court in London
- Adopts EU laws as British law
“As we prepare for those negotiations in Europe, we also need to prepare for the impact of Brexit on domestic law,” said Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis.
“It’s very simple. At the moment we leave, Britain must be back in control. And that means EU law must cease to apply.
“To ensure continuity, we will take a simple approach. EU law will be transposed into domestic law, wherever practical, on exit day.
Controversy over powers for ministers
“It will be for elected politicians here to make the changes to reflect the outcome of our negotiation and our exit.
“That is what people voted for: power and authority residing once again with the sovereign institutions of our own country.”
So-called ‘Henry VIII provisions’ that would allow ministers to amend UK law to align with EU rules are controversial because they offer executive powers to make law changes without consulting Parliament.
This was precisely the argument that led to Prime Minister Theresa May’s defeat in the courts that forced her to put a bill through Parliament for approval by MPs and the Lords before triggering Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon.