Brexit: Thousands of EU laws to be transferred to UK

Darren McCaffrey, Political Correspondent

Thousands of EU laws - from workers' rights to food safety - are to be transferred onto the UK statute book in a Great Repeal Bill unveiled by the Government.

Brexit Secretary David Davis told the House of Commons that the new legislation will provide "clarity and certainty" as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.

Critics have attacked the bill for creating sweeping temporary powers to allow ministers to tweak laws that would otherwise not "work appropriately".

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The use of the so-called Henry VIII powers allows the Government to pass up to 1,000 pieces of secondary legislation without close parliamentary scrutiny.

But Mr Davis said any powers created in this way would be "time-limited" and that "Parliament will need to be satisfied that the procedures are appropriate".

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Speaking in the Commons, he told MPs: "We have been clear that we want a smooth and orderly exit, and the Great Repeal Bill is integral to that approach.

"It will provide clarity and certainty for businesses, workers and consumers across the United Kingdom on the day we leave the EU.

"It will mean that as we exit the EU and seek a new deep and special partnership with the European Union, we will be doing so from the position where we have the same standards and rules.

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"But it will also ensure that we deliver on our promise to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK as we exit.

"Our laws will then be made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast and interpreted not by judges in Luxembourg but by judges across the United Kingdom."

The bill will repeal the European Communities Act 1972, which provides legal underpinning for Britain's EU membership.

It will also end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

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The announcement comes a day after Theresa May triggered Article 50, starting the process which will take the UK out of the European Union in the next two years.

In a foreword to the paper, the Prime Minister said the bill would "provide maximum certainty as we leave the EU", allowing businesses, public officials and individuals to plan for the future while Brexit negotiations are ongoing.

"The Great Repeal Bill is an important part of our plan to deliver a smooth and orderly Brexit that commands the confidence of all," she said.

"The task ahead may be significant, but I am confident we can make it a success. This white paper is an essential step along the way."

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Labour MP Chuka Umunna, chairman of Vote Leave Watch, described the Great Repeal Bill as "an immense undertaking, fraught with danger".

"Right-wing Tory Brexiteers like Liam Fox and Priti Patel have spent years waiting for this moment to cut the rights of British working people," he said.

"From anti-discrimination laws to the Social Chapter to ECJ case law providing holiday pay, too many Conservatives see Brexit as a chance for a damaging bonfire of regulations."

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Liberal Democrat chief whip Tom Brake said: "Theresa May and her ministers are resembling a medieval court more and more every single day.

"This shameless power grab under the cloak of secondary legislation would have made Henry VIII blush.

"If needed, we will grind the Government's agenda to a standstill, unless proper and rigorous safeguards are given over the Great Repeal Bill."

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