Great Repeal Bill will create sweeping powers to replace EU laws after Brexit, David Davis vows

Laura Hughes

The Government has published details of proposed legislation to transfer the whole of EU law on to the UK statute book as Britain leaves the European Union.

David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, told MPs the Great Repeal Bill will provide "clarity and certainty" for businesses and citizens.

The Bill is made up of three principal elements. 

  • Repealing the European Communities Act 1972, the historic law that took Britain into the EU.  
  • Secondly, the Bill will convert all EU law into United Kingdom law to prevent a legal black hole after Brexit. Thousands of European laws, diktats and directives are to be turned into UK law before Brexit is completed in mid-2019.
  • Thirdly, the Bill will create the necessary powers for MPs to change these laws once Britain has left the EU. 

However, there are concerns that under so-called Henry VIII clauses, the Government will have sweeping powers to repeal legislation without parliamentary approval.

Mr Davis said the Bill will not give the European Court of Justice a "future role" in the interpretation of UK laws, and courts will not be obliged to consider cases decided by the ECJ after Brexit.

But while EU-derived law is on the UK statute book "it is essential that there is common understanding" of that legislation, so courts will refer to ECJ case law "as it exists on the day we leave the EU".

Adams cartoon, March 31

He also revealed that it is "quite likely" there will be a separate parliamentary vote on leaving the European Economic Area (EEA).

While making clear that there are "no plans" to pull the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Government's White Paper stated that the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights will not be converted into UK law.

Although it had no precise figure for the number of EU rules which will be transferred into domestic law, it noted that there are currently more than 12,000 EU regulations in force.

FAQ | The Great Repeal Bill

1:06PM

Separate vote on leaving the EEA? 

David Davis tells MPs it is "quite likely" there will be a parliamentary vote on leaving the European Economic Area (EEA).

Asked if there will be a separate vote, he says:

Depending on what the policy decision is, I would think it was quite likely to come to parliament.

The Brexit Secretary has finished giving his statement to the House. 

12:42PM

'The cat is out the bag'

Christopher Chope, a Tory MP, asks if Parliament will be able to abolish ghastly" EU laws.

David Davis says MPs will be free to do what they like when all EU laws are concerted into British law. 

One Labour MP yells: "The cat is out of the bag!"

Former Business Minister Anna Soubry Tweets: 

12:37PM

'Henry VIII would blush'

Commenting on the Great Repeal Bill, Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip,  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.  The ball is now in the Prime Minister’s court.

Liberal Democrats will fight to maintain the high standards for the environment, health, safety, consumer protection, employment and equalities that the UK currently adheres to as an EU member.

Nobody voted to diminish their rights, make themselves poorer or to make their country less safe.

12:32PM

'What we will be doing is returning sovereignty to this house'

Sir Bill Cash, the Tory eurosceptic MP, has praised the Government’s plans.

He said:

What we will be doing is returning sovereignty to this house so that the decisions taken in our law making are made by the British people’s representatives in this House.

12:27PM

'Sweeping powers' 

Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, says the Bill provides "new sweeping power to the executive". 

He says:

All rights, all rights and protections must be written into British law. No sunset clause.

12:22PM

Davis: We will end  supremacy of EU law

In a move designed to quell concern over the use of so-called Henry VIII powers to pass up to 1,000 pieces of secondary legislation without close parliamentary scrutiny, David Davis says any powers created in this way would be "time limited" and "Parliament will need to be satisfied that the procedures are appropriate".

Mr Davis 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.

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.

12:15PM

'We are living a very difficult moment'

The president of the European Parliament has said "we are living a very difficult moment" in a speech given a day after Brexit was triggered.

Sir Tim Barrow handed a letter to European Council president Donald Tusk on Wednesday to fire the starting gun on the United Kingdom leaving the bloc of 28 countries.

Speaking at a congress in Malta, Antonio Tajani said: "We are living a very difficult moment.

"Economic crisis, immigration, terrorism, Brexit, the responsibility of the EPP (centre-right European People's Party) is most important responsibility.

"We need to work all together, we need to be united."

Sir Tim Barrow

12:06PM

ECJ rulings to have same status as Supreme Court laws after Brexit

David Davis says that Britain will resolve disputes over EU law on Britain's statute books by referring to ECJ case law.

"Our intention is not to fossilise past decisions of the European Court of Justice", he says. 

In other words,  ECJ rulings will have same status as Supreme Court laws after Brexit.

He also confirms that the Charter for Fundamental Rights will not be put on British statute books.

Mr Davis said the Bill will not give the ECJ a "future role" in the interpretation of UK laws, and courts will not be obliged to consider cases decided by the ECJ after Brexit.

But while EU-derived law is on the UK statute book "it is essential that there is common understanding" of that legislation, so courts will refer to ECJ case law "as it exists on the day we leave the EU".

12:04PM

Davis: Brexit Bill shows Parliament 'will be involved'

David Davis is speaking in the House of Commons on the Great Repeal Bill. 

The Brexit Secretary says workers rights, consumer rights and environmental protections will be in place in British law under Great Repeal Bill.

He confirms that the Government will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act. 

He says the Bill is proof that parliament will be involved in Brexit.

11:35AM

'Two letters'

A second copy of Theresa May's historic letter signalling the start of the Brexit process is being kept in Number 10.

The Prime Minister signed two copies of the letter, which were both taken to Brussels to formally start the Article 50 process for withdrawing from the EU.

While one letter was handed to European Council president Donald Tusk, the second copy was stamped and returned to Number 10 as a record of the moment Mrs May called a "great turning point in our national story".

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "There were two letters. The purpose of the second letter was that that letter was date-stamped by the European Council, which happened yesterday.

"That letter then returned to Downing Street by Eurostar and that letter will now be kept in Number 10."

The letters were identical and both signed personally by Mrs May - a so-called "wet signature" in official jargon.

The spokesman said it was a "purely procedural" matter and the letter would be staying in Number 10.

11:14AM

Verhofstadt: You can't trade security off against trade

10:50AM

'I don’t care about the city of London’s interests'

Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party group in the European Parliament, has said 

He BBC Radio 4's Today Programme:

I don’t care anymore about the city of London’s interests. I will care about Amsterdam and Dublin and Frankfurt am Main and Paris.

That is what I have to do, and the negotiations will be very tough.

In a message to the British Prime Minister, he said: 

I hear every day that you want to stay in the research union.

You want to stay as close as possible to the single market. You want to stay in Europol. I have no idea what you are leaving.

Theresa May, please tell me what leaving the European Union means.

Manfred Weber, Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament Credit: EPA/CUGNOT MATHIEU

10:34AM

Hollande: Talks on future EU-UK relations must wait

François Hollande, the French president, on Thursday insisted that the terms for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU must first be agreed before opening negotiations on a trade deal.

One of the Prime Minister’s key demands is to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement at the same time as discussing the practicalities of Brexit, including the amount of Britain’s “divorce settlement” — the price it will pay for leaving.

But Mr Hollande’s office said he told her in a telephone call: “First we must begin discussions on the modalities of the withdrawal, especially on the rights of citizens and the obligations arising from the commitments that the United Kingdom has made.”

"On the basis of what progress is made, we could open discussions on the framework of future relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union,” a statement from the president’s office said.

Mr Hollande’s approach appears to be aligned with that of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who on Wednesday rejected Mrs May’s call for simultaneous negotiations. 

The French president said the talks should be held in a "clear and constructive manner, so as to lift uncertainties and to fully respect the rules and interests of the 27-member European Union.”

Report from David Chazan in Paris

French President Francois Hollande Credit: BORIS HORVAT/AFP

9:53AM

'I don't even use or think about the word blackmail'

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's co-ordinator for Brexit, has been asked if he believes Theresa May was engaged in "blackmail".

He said: "I try to be a gentleman, so towards a lady I don't even use or think about the word 'blackmail'."

Mr Verhofstadt told Good Morning Britain:

What I think is not possible is to say to the European Union 'well look we will only co-operate on security if you give us a good trade deal or a good economic package', that is not done.

The security of the citizens is so important, the fight against terrorism is so crucial, that you cannot negotiate with something else.

What we propose is to make an association agreement between the UK and the EU with two consistent pillars, one on security, the fight against terrorism, external and internal; and at the other hand a good trade deal, a fair trade deal, where it is clear naturally, that outside the European Union, you can never have a status that is so favourable than a member state of the European Union.

European Parliament Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt Credit: Yui Mok/PA

9:40AM

'No trade-off over security' 

France's ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann said there could be no "trade-off" over security and a free-trade agreement (FTA).

She told the BBC: "We are all facing the same security challenges and we all need security. So it can't be a trade-off between an FTA, an economic agreement, and security."

French Ambassador to Britain, Sylvie Bermann (R) reacts as British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (C) speaks Credit: AFP/DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS

9:32AM

'Negotiations are uncertain'

David Davis was asked about his promise that the UK's trade deal would provide the "exact same benefits" as membership of the single market on the BBC this morning.

The Brexit Secretary said: "I make no apology for being ambitious about what we are trying to do."

He added:

I want the best possible benefits from the European Union, I also want the best possible benefits in terms of world trade - the real prize to be had in this, the ability to do deals with the fastest-growing, the biggest markets in the world.

But he acknowledged that "achieving it, of course, is a matter of negotiation, and negotiations are uncertain".

9:00AM

David Davis rejects 'blackmail' threat

David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, has been speaking on the Radio 4 Today programme. 

He has denied again that Theresa May's security warning in her EU letter was "blackmail"  and insisted he has received a "positive" response to letter from diplomats across the continent. 

Asked if the letter amounted to “blackmail”,  he replied simply: "No, it didn’t."

Adding:

What the prime minister was saying was, if we have no deal - remember, what we want is a deal - it is bad for both of us.

If we don’t have a deal, one of the things we are going to lose is the current arrangements on justice and home affairs.

We want a deal. That’s the point. We want a deal. And [Theresa May] was making the point that it is bad for both of us if we don’t have a deal. That, I think, is a perfectly reasonable point to make and not in any sense a threat.

Mr Davis said the reference to weakened security co-operation was "not a threat" to the 27 other EU members.

He said:

This is a statement of the fact that this would be harmful for both of us, if we don't get a deal".

It's an argument for having a deal, and that's what we are after.

We are after a fully-comprehensive deal that covers trade, that covers security, covers all the aspects of our existing relationship and tries to preserve as much of it - the benefits for everybody - as we can.

8:07AM

'It's a very positive letter'

Theresa May's ministers have tried to play down a row with key players in Brussels over an apparent threat to pull security co-operation unless the European Union agrees a trade deal.

Brexit Secretary David Davis insisted that his counterparts on the continent had praised the "positive" letter the Prime Minister sent to trigger Article 50.

Critics have accused the Prime Minister of trying to make a trade-off between security and commerce by mentioning the crime-fighting measures alongside a trade deal in her letter.

British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis Credit: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP

But Mr Davis told ITV's Good Morning Britain:

I spent all of yesterday afternoon on the telephone talking to my opposite numbers in the Parliament, in the commission, around all the member states.

Virtually all of them said spontaneously, it's a very positive letter, the tone was good, and so on.

One part of the deal is the justice and home affairs strand, we currently have arrangements for exchanging information, for arrest warrants, for Europol and all those things.

We will need to replace that with something else because that will go when we leave the European Union.

Mr Davis said it was a "negotiation" and "the other side might want to change things too".

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said the row was a "misunderstanding".

He told BBC Two's Newsnight that "the two issues had been mentioned side by side because they were "all bound up in our membership of the European Union".

It's not a threat, I think that's the misunderstanding. It's absolutely not a threat.

Damian Green Credit: Andrew Crowley 

 

8:00AM

PM to take power back from Brussels

Good Morning, 

Plans to repatriate more than 40 years of powers back to Westminster will begin today with the publication of the details of the Great Repeal Bill.

The white paper - Legislating for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union - will set out how the Government will deal with EU laws that cannot be easily converted.

Secondary legislation, known as statutory instruments, will be used to make technical changes with up to 1,000 pieces expected, nearly as many as MPs and peers usually deal with in an entire parliament.

The House of Commons library has warned it will be one of the largest legislative processes "ever undertaken".

The Bill itself expected in May's Queen's Speech.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said:

At the heart of the referendum decision was sovereignty. A strong, independent country needs control of its own laws. That process starts now.

Converting EU law into UK law, and ending the supremacy of lawmakers in Brussels, is an important step in giving businesses, workers and consumers the certainty they need.

And it will mean that as we seek a comprehensive new economic partnership with the EU, our allies will know that we start from a position where we have the same standards and rules.

FAQ | The Great Repeal Bill

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