Mon, 15 April 2024

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Theresa May sets up clash with Labour on human rights as Repeal Bill is published

3 min read

Theresa May has set herself on a collision course with Labour after it emerged the Charter of Fundamental Rights will not be transferred into UK law after Brexit.

The Government confirmed the controversial move as it published the 66-page EU (Withdrawal) Bill this morning.

It will give ministers sweeping powers to change up to 1,000 pieces of EU legislation to make them compatible with the UK statute book without the need for a Commons vote.

The so-called "Henry VIII provisions" will stay in place for up to two years, the legislation - formerly known as the Great Repeal Bill - said.

In total, the bill aims to transfer up to 20,000 EU regulations into UK law on the first day after Brexit.

However, the highly-technical document does not specifically mention when that will be - although the working assumption is that Britain's EU membership will officially end on 31 March, 2019.

But it is the revelation that the Charter of Fundamental Rights will not transfer onto the UK statute book which will cause the first Commons clash between the Government and the opposition.

It is understood that the Government believes a showdown is not necessary because the relevant provisions are already contained in other EU legislation which will be transferred into British law.

But Labour has said it will vote against the bill unless the Government changes course.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: "Labour has always been clear that Brexit cannot lead to any rolling back of rights and protections. We need effective legislation that protects British workers and consumers, enshrines equality laws, enforces environmental standards and devolves powers across the country.

"The Government’s repeal bill falls short on all counts. It is simply not fit for purpose. The bill proposes sweeping new powers for ministers that are fundamentally undemocratic, unaccountable and unacceptable. It fails to guarantee crucial rights will be enforced; it omits the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and it does nothing to ensure that British standards and rights keep pace with our EU partners.

"Labour are putting the Prime Minister on notice that unless the Bill is significantly improved in all these areas, Labour will vote it down in the House of Commons."

But a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "The Prime Minister and others have been clear throughout that we wish to work constructively across parliament. What’s important is delivering on the will of the British people."

David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "We have been clear there must be no rowing back on people’s rights after we leave the European Union. Rights derived from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, including important protections for children and older people, must be preserved for UK citizens."

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