The Great Repeal Bill has been unveiled – and Whitehall is already alive with the sound of copying and pasting as bureaucrats scramble to carry over EU law on to the statute book. With the Brexit clock ticking, is the Government up to the task?
Make no mistake, this bill is the ‘the blueprint for restoring the supremacy of Parliament,’ says the Daily Mail. For nearly 50 years, ‘the unelected judges of the European Court’ have been in control of our legal system. But no more: ‘This Bill puts legislative power back where it belongs – in the hands of British MPs and British judges’. Of course, the process of doing so will be no mean feat. There are ‘thousands of pieces of legislation’ (which, the Mail says, shows ‘how Brussels has insinuated itself into the minutiae of British life’) and fixing them within the two year time frame will be a difficult ask. The biggest obstacle, though, doesn’t come from Brussels. Instead, it’s those ‘in this country who want to do Britain down’. The Mail fingers the Lib Dems as the main culprits, saying the ‘pathetic’ party are ‘pledging a guerrilla campaign by demanding a vote on every tiny legislative change’. ‘For a party calling itself Democrat, to act in such an undemocratic way is appalling hypocrisy,’ argues the Mail.
It would be nice, argues the Daily Telegraph, to ‘wipe the slate clean’ and ditch altogether the EU laws that have found their way into UK law. ‘But the transfer of laws is necessary to avoid a legal black hole after Brexit,’ the paper points out. Whatever the necessities of the Bill, it’s clear, however, that the Government is already facing opposition. Labour has ‘predictably, overreacted’ in its suggestion that the statutory instrument ministers intend to use are ‘akin to Henry VIII’s’ power. This is nothing short of ‘paranoid and ridiculous’, argues the paper, which is reassured by ministers’ promises not to ‘make major changes to policy’. Indeed, it’s vital, says the paper, that we remember how ‘maddeningly complex’ this is going to be and ‘make all this happen as smoothly as possible’. After all, it’s in the ‘national interest’ that the process of Brexit goes swimmingly, the paper says.
‘This will be more than a routine, bureaucratic task,’ says the FT, with the Great Repeal Bill proving how Britain’s economy is tangled up with an ’international web of treaties, agencies and laws’. There are ‘thousands of regulations’ to deal with. And the paper points out that it won’t be as simple as simply copying and pasting them into UK law. It’s also the case, the paper argues, that some of the regulatory agencies on which these laws rely will be ‘difficult to reproduce’. The paper says that the Government appears to be ‘aware of these problems’. Already, though, the Eurosceptics are beginning to grumble. And the ‘longer the transition takes’, the louder they will get. Theresa May must let them moan, says the FT – and remember that ‘a chaotic departure and legal confusion is not a price worth paying’.
It’s not a good sign, says the Guardian, that the Great Repeal Bill has been given a name of ‘rhetorical trickery’. It’s obvious, the paper argues, that the title has been picked to ’sustain the illusion, long cultivated by Eurosceptics, that Brexit represents a moment of national emancipation’. It’s true that some laws – such as the European Communities Act 1972 – will go. But to avoid a ‘gaping hole’, ‘it is necessary to rebrand European regulations as British ones’. ‘This is not what Brexiters had in mind when they envisaged “taking back control”,’ the Guardian argues.
How should the Prime Minister act during Brexit talks? The Sun has the answer. It argues that it’s vital that ’Britain should convey a mature, welcoming image from the off’. And the paper says Theresa May’s ‘charm offensive’ is obviously a ‘smart move’ aimed at cooling the ‘foolish aggression’ from other leaders on the continent. Whatever the demands being made about Britain’s Brexit bill, May needs to continue ‘to rise above the bitterness’. One key way of continuing this positive message would be for the Prime Minister to ensure that the rights of EU citizens already here are addressed. ‘The sooner those talks begin, the better,’ concludes the Sun.