What is the Repeal Bill? What does it mean for Brexit, Theresa May and Labour?

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Legislation to convert EU law into UK law, known as the Repeal Bill, is due to be published by Brexit Secretary David Davis.

The flagship bill is a central plank in the Government’s Brexit strategy but is expected to be the subject of fierce battles between MPs and peers over the shape of the country’s exit.

Prime Minister Theresa May called this week for opposition parties to work together, while Mr Davis said he will “work with anyone” to make it a success.

However with the Conservatives already relying on Democratic Unionist Party support to win key votes, the Government faces opposition.

Labour has vowed to vote against the legislation unless Mrs May makes significant concessions, while Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has warned the Government: “This will be hell.”

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Repeal Bill?

David Davis has described the first piece of Government legislation relating to Brexit since Article 50 was triggered in March as one of the most significant bills ever to come to Parliament.

The Repeal Bill is designed to transpose EU law into British law so the same rules apply on the day of Brexit as the day before.

It then gives parliaments and assemblies in Westminster, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff the power to drop or change them in the future.

It will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act – which took Britain into the EU – and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

The supremacy of Brussels law will be removed, EU law will be converted into UK law where appropriate, and temporary powers will be created to correct laws that will not operate appropriately after Brexit.

The Government hopes it will give confidence to businesses, workers and consumers that they will not face unexpected changes on the day of Brexit.

Mr Davis said: “This Bill means that we will be able to exit the European Union with maximum certainty, continuity and control. That is what the British people voted for and it is exactly what we will do – ensure that the decisions that affect our lives are taken here in the UK.

“It is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that has ever passed through Parliament and is a major milestone in the process of our withdrawal from the European Union.”

How much European law is there?

The total body of European law dates back to 1958 and in 2010 was estimated to consist of about 80,000 items, covering everything from workers’ rights to environment and trade.

There are believed to be 12,000 EU regulations, as well as EU treaties, directions and European Court of Justice rulings.

May: UK seeks new trade deals after Brexit

Meanwhile new EU legislation is being created all the time and will continue to apply in the UK until it leaves.

A House of Lords committee warned recently that “the body of EU law is found in a number of different places, and in a number of different forms” and as such the Repeal Bill presents a “unique challenge”.

A report by the House of Commons library predicts it is likely to be “one of the largest legislative projects ever undertaken in the UK”.

What’s happening when?

The Repeal Bill is expected to be published late on Thursday morning, depending on Commons business.

Parliamentarians will get their first chance to pore over its contents and consider how they may seek to amend it in an attempt to change the direction of the UK’s exit from the EU.

However is not expected to be formally debated until Autumn.

Separately, the Government will also publish three position papers for exit negotiations.

One will cover nuclear materials and safeguards issues and will be studied closely by opposition parties and Tory MPs who have expressed concerns about the Government’s commitment to leaving Euratom, Europe’s civil nuclear regulator.

The other two papers will cover ongoing union judicial and administrative proceedings, and privileges and immunities.

They will be presented to the European Commission for discussion in the second round of formal exit negotiations in Brussels next week.


Theresa May’s appeal for opposition parties to cooperate with her minority government has not only just gone down badly with the Labour party, but also her own MPs. 

She could face a revolt from Remain-supporting Conservative MPs, and only a few Tory rebels are needed to inflict defeat on teh Prime Minister.

Meanwhile Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has said he is “putting the government on notice” and demanding changes on matters from parliamentary scrutiny to workers’ rights.

And Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron that the Government faces “hell” as it tries to get the Bill through the Houses of Commons and Lords.

Mr Farron said: “The Government cannot use the Great Repeal Bill to get their way. We have been learning the lessons of Maastricht and I am putting the Government on warning. If you found the Article 50 Bill difficult, you should be under no illusion, this will be hell.

“If the Government try any wheeze or trick to force through changes to vital protections, from workers’ rights to the environment, they are playing with fire.

“I am keen to work across party lines to do everything we can to protect these rights.

“If this Tory Brexit Government and their Labour cheerleaders think this will be waved through, they have another thing coming.”

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