A white paper on the Great Repeal Bill is due on Thursday - but what does it all mean?

Mark Sands
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EU Referendum - Signage And Symbols
The UK voted to leave the European Union on 23 June. (Source: Getty)

Prime Minister Theresa May will launch her Great Repeal Bill later this week as Britain begins the process of quitting the EU.

But what is this legislation, and what will it mean? Open Europe policy director Stephen Booth has the answers.

What is the Great Repeal Bill expected to do?

It should really be titled the “Great Repatriation Bill”. In the first instance, the government is committed to using the Great Repeal Bill to give effect in UK law to all the EU rules and regulations that apply at the time of Brexit. At the same time, it will end the supremacy of EU law so that parliament will have the power to amend and repeal this legislation in the future, once Britain formally leaves the EU.

What are the advantages of this approach?

It helps to create certainty for business over the short-term because the existing rules are not going to change suddenly. Secondly, by incorporating EU laws into UK law, the government is making a strong argument to Brussels negotiators that the trade that relies on these rules should be able to continue. In areas, such as financial services, where market access could rely on whether the EU deems UK rules as “equivalent” to its own, this approach should help smooth the path to an agreement.

Are there any concerns around the powers that this bill grants the government?

Some have suggested that the government may use so-called Henry VIII powers when incorporating the body of EU law into UK law. These allow ministers to change primary legislation, government bills, using secondary legislation, orders that go through parliament with little scrutiny. As long as these powers are confined to technical adjustments, for example to ensure that the laws now refer to a UK regulator instead of an EU one, there is little to fear. Substantive changes to these laws should require primary legislation and therefore full parliamentary scrutiny.

What is the timetable for this process?

Ultimately, the process has to be completed before Brexit. But the sooner the better, since this will give greater legal certainty to business and send an important signal as part of the UK-EU negotiations that the UK does not.

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