The GRB has been published. It had its first reading in Parliament yesterday (13 July 2017), with David Davis, the SSExEU, describing it as:
In the weeks ahead, we’ll be looking at the provisions in detail but let’s start with an overview. You can also watch our David Mundy discussing the Bill on BBC News.
First, the title. We realised it wouldn’t be called the Great Repeal Bill some time ago, given parliamentary rules preventing legislation from having ‘propagandist’ titles. The formal title, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill reflects the fact that although the UK will withdraw from the EU by means of a ratified Treaty, the Government also needs (because the UK is a ‘dualist’ state) to apply that change domestically. This blog (which won’t be changing its name) will from now on refer to it simply as the Bill.
Turning to the operative provisions, the Bill contains 19 clauses and nine Schedules and runs to just over sixty pages. Many of the provisions are detailed and technical, but, in summary, they do the following (hyperlinks are to our earlier posts of particular relevance):
The Bill’s Second Reading (when Parliament considers and votes on the principle of the Bill) is not until the autumn but certain battle lines have already been drawn.
Opposition MPs are expressing great concern about the wide-ranging powers being granted to government ministers to ‘correct’ or ‘amend’ deficiencies in existing primary and secondary legislation by means of regulations – the so-called ‘Henry VIII powers’. Many Opposition MPs have pointed out that one person’s ‘correction’ is another’s ‘fundamental change’, and so such changes should be subject to appropriate Parliamentary scrutiny.
These MPs will be particularly alarmed by the provisions in Schedule 7 which allow Ministers to make new regulations ‘in certain urgent cases’ without any prior Parliamentary scrutiny, and that Ministers will be able to use these so-called ‘Henry VIII powers’ for up to two years after exit day, reflecting the government’s fear that it is simply impossible to do all the work beforehand (particularly if the exit negotiations go to the wire).
Many worry that existing EU-derived rights and protections will be attacked by the Tory right keen to ‘cut red tape’ and other burdens on business. Workers’ rights, the environment, human rights, consumer protection and financial regulation are all identified as particularly vulnerable.
The Liberal Democrats have drawn attention to the fact that the Charter of Fundamental Rights will not be transposed into domestic law. Outgoing leader Tim Farron, said:
MPs are also concerned that the UK will fail to ‘keep pace’ with EU rights as they continue to develop in the future. Harriet Harman said, in respect of equal pay and women’s rights, that:
One of the clearest battlegrounds to emerge is between the Government and the Scottish and Welsh administrations over devolved powers (of course, Northern Ireland devolved government is suspended and the largest party, the DUP, has a confidence and supply arrangement with the Government). In a joint statement, Scottish and Welsh First Ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones said: