© Dylan Martinez / Reuters
A day after invoking Article 50, setting Brexit negotiations in motion, the government will set out plans to convert European laws into domestic legislation. Up to 1,000 will be passed without parliamentary scrutiny, using powers dating back to Henry VIII.
Prime Minister Theresa May will on Thursday publish a white paper detailing the Great Repeal Bill.
The bill will repeal the European Communities Act, which says EU law is supreme over Britain’s, repatriating more than 40 years of powers back to Westminster from Brussels.
It will transpose existing EU legislation into domestic UK law and ensure the UK leaves the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. This, the government says, will avoid a “black hole in our statute book” and will mean the “UK will be an independent sovereign nation.”
The bill will become law the day the UK leaves the EU, expected in two years.
Thursday’s white paper is expected to confirm the government’s plan to change a significant chunk of EU law using”secondary legislation,” which allows ministers to change laws without a vote by MPs.
The Department for Exiting the EU said there is not enough time to get through all the “corrections” to EU law needed for them to function properly in the UK.
It will use the so-called ‘Henry VIII powers’, which will allow ministers to bypass full parliamentary scrutiny in order to change the wording of laws as they are repatriated, to tweak up to 1,000 of the EU laws.
Critics say the powers put too much control in the hands of the government without oversight by MPs and peers.
Sam Fowles, an international law researcher from Queen Mary University, told RT it is “worrying” MPs will not get a say in which laws are repealed by the government under Henry VIII powers.
“We don’t know which laws will ultimately be transferred into UK laws and which laws will be dropped along the way.
© Toby Melville / Reuters
British monarch Henry VIII
“And the worrying thing is that parliament won’t get a say in which laws – I’m talking about things like air quality measures, environmental measures, things like employment protections … are these going to make it into British law, or are they going to be dropped along the way with these Henry VIII powers?”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called using the powers “dictatorial” and vowed to oppose the powers. The Liberal Democrats have also pledged to oppose the move.
House of Commons leader David Lidington has defended the plans, saying they will be “limited and defined.”
“We need to have a power under secondary legislation to tweak the … European regulations so that it’s actually coherent,” he told the BBC.
“It will be a limited and defined power, not to act like a dictator, but by secondary legislation.
“And the scope the definition of those powers, and when they can be used, in what circumstances, is something parliament will have to approve in voting through the bill itself.”
A study by Reuters found there have been 52,741 relevant pieces of legislation passed by Brussels since 1990 alone.
Former Commons Clerk Lord Lisvane has voiced doubts over whether the process can be completed within the two years it will take for the UK to complete the EU divorce.
“It won’t just be two years. It could go on for a decade,” he told the BBC.