You may have seen a lot in the news about the Repeal Bill, which today has begun to be debated in the House of Commons.
The Great Repeal Bill is a huge piece of legislation which sets to transfer all EU law into UK domestic law to provide continuation for businesses and consumers on exit day in March 2019.
Firstly, I want to emphasise that this Bill is not about whether Britain leaves the EU. That issue was settled by the referendum result and the Article 50 Bill. The Labour Party has been very clear that we respect the referendum result and recognise that Britain is leaving the EU.
Instead, this Bill is about how we leave the EU, what role Parliament has in the process and how we safeguard vital rights and protections as we leave.
Issues around the Repeal Bill
I agree that we need to transfer EU law into UK law to ensure continuity when we leave the EU and to ensure the continued protection of our workers’ rights, environmental standards and consumers’ protections.
However, there are fundamental issues with the drafting of this Bill as it stands in that the Government is asking for powers but it does not know - at this stage - what it will actually need them for. The context in which the powers will be applied will vary largely depending on the outcome of negotiations.
Indeed, the current drafting of the text – in Article 7 –effectively offers a carte blanche to Ministers to make changes through delegated powers. However, delegated powers are subject to a woefully inadequate scrutiny system.
This could mean that the Government would use the power to make very substantial changes to the law without ensuring proper Parliamentary scrutiny.
Repair, not wreck the Bill
Labour has repeatedly raised these concerns with the Government but they have been utterly inflexible and unwilling to engage constructively. Labour’s aim has always been to repair this Bill, not wreck it.
I hope the Government will listen to these reasonable and constructive concerns before the Commons votes on the Bill on Monday 11th September. If they do, then it is still possible for there to be a consensus on this important issue and for a much better Bill to be introduced. If not, I will have no choice but to vote against this deeply flawed Bill at Second Reading.