The EU withdrawal bill as it currently stands needs to be substantially rewritten, and is expected to become the subject of heated debate in the upper house of the UK Parliament on January 30 and 31. Remain-supporting peers are scheduled to vote for a motion of regret that the nation doesn’t have another say over the Brexit decision.
The main aim of the legislation is to turn EU legislation into domestic law by Brexit day in March 2019, but the committee expressed concerns over the task’s “scale and complexity” as well as issues with the drafting.
“We conclude that the bill risks fundamentally undermining legal certainty in a number of ways,” the cross-party group said.
The peers took a go at the bill and gave a number of reasons for their criticism: the method proposed to create a new category of “retained EU law” that, as they believe, would cause “problematic uncertainties and ambiguities.” They also blasted the tenets of the bill emboldening ministers to amend regulations without full parliamentary scrutiny, known as Henry VIII powers, claiming they were “overly broad.” The lords added that there was an “unacceptably wide” emergency procedure for short-term changes, warning that the inability to secure agreements from Wales and Scotland could lead to “significant constitutional repercussions.”
“The bill is therefore fundamentally flawed from a constitutional perspective in multiple ways,” the report said.
“We acknowledge the scale, challenge and unprecedented nature of the task of converting existing EU law into UK law, but as it stands, this bill is constitutionally unacceptable,” said Lady Taylor of Bolton, the chair of the committee.
The reasons brought in by the peers have been addressed in the lower house of the UK Parliament. The Labour party is said to be planning to support about 20 amendments in the House of Lords.
“We will work with others around the Lords to change this bill so it becomes an enabling measure for, rather than an obstacle to a transitional period, as is currently the case. This will include seeking amendments relating to ‘exit day,’ ensuring the government cannot reduce rights via secondary legislation, and providing greater clarity about the role of the European court of justice and the future status of its case law. Labour has consistently called for a transitional period based on current terms, including a temporary extension to our participation in the single market and customs union. This would prevent a cliff edge for consumers and businesses in March 2019,” said Angela Smith, the Labor leader in the Lords.
Brexit negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union are scheduled to be completed by the end of March 2019. In December, 2017 the sides finished the first phase of talks, including debates on the issue of citizens’ rights. They’ve since moved to the second phase of the negotiations, putting the transition period in their relations after Britain’s withdrawal, including their future long-term trade and security cooperation, on the agenda.