Repeal Bill: Everything you need to know ahead of tomorrow's historic reading

Catherine Neilan
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There's no going back now (Source: Getty)

Tomorrow marks the first major step in the UK's journey to exit the EU, with the much-anticipated publication of the Repeal Bill. But what is it and why is it so important?

What is the Repeal Bill?

The Repeal Bill will receive its formal first reading on Thursday, the first of eight bills over the next two years which are dedicated to paving the way for Brexit.

Originally called the Great Repeal Bill, this is arguably the most important piece of UK legislation put forward in a generation. It will repeal the European Communities Act of 1972 and signifies that the British are taking control of their legal future by converting thousands of pieces of EU law into domestic legislation.

Read more: Is the Repeal Bill a missed opportunity to slash red tape?

Why do we need a Repeal Bill?

There are almost 19,000 pieces of EU-related legislation in force, according to the House of Commons library

The sheer volume of legislation that must be changed before 29 March 2019 means it would be impossible to do it on a case-by-case basis. This instead offers a short-term solution, the hope being that it gives clarity for individuals and businesses as we move towards Brexit.

Future UK governments can then amend, improve or repeal laws, subject to international treaty obligations.

Read more: Whitehall to probe more than 50,000 EU laws during Brexit

What are the controversial issues?

The bill aims to end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over the UK, although the government has conceded there will be a transitional role for the ECJ until the process is complete. But many are concerned about what that means for certain key areas, such as Euratom, membership of which is overseen by the ECJ.

Ministers have argued that the UK is legally obliged to leave Euratom when it leaves the EU, but others - such as Ed Vaizey - claim that's not the case.

There are also concerns about the so-called Henry VIII clauses - which refer to the Statute of Proclamation 1539 - amid fears this could provide government with the means to grab power.

Read more: How business groups are reacting to the Repeal Bill

What's going to happen from here?

MPs are expected to scrutinise the bill over a number of days, with amendments put forward and voted on. Each clause of the bill will have to be voted on.

Had May won a majority she could have expected that to go through relatively easily, but there is potential for upset both from rebels within her party and those in opposition. Challenges to the exit from the ECJ, at the very least, are likely.

But, with pressure piling on May, a vote is not expected until October - it is thought the Prime Minister is hoping the summer recess will provide some breathing space to enable her to come back stronger (although others argue she may have gone by then).

Check back in tomorrow morning for the details of the Repeal Bill, and all the reactions from the House and beyond.

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