Enshrining Brexit date in law would cause 'significant difficulties', MPs warn
Government plans to enshrine the date of Britain’s exit from the European Union in law could result in “significant difficulties”, a cross-party group of MPs has warned.
A report by the Exiting the European Union Committee said the controversial proposals - unveiled by Theresa May last week - would remove “flexibility” in the event of the Brexit negotiations going down to the wire.
The report said ministers would lose the ability to set “multiple exit days” should that be required.
Mrs May said writing the exit date of 11pm on 29 March in the EU Withdrawal Bill would make it clear to Brussels that the UK was definitely leaving.
But around 20 Conservative MPs have threatened to vote against the amendment, enough to wipe out the Prime Minister's slender Commons majority.
Justice Secretary David Lidington yesterday dropped a heavy hint the Government could backtrack on the proposal to avoid a humiliating defeat.
But Downing Street this morning insisted the Government still planned to push it to a vote.
Hilary Benn, chair of the Exiting the EU Committee, said: “We need to maintain flexibility as the negotiations proceed, but ministers are now proposing to remove from the Bill the power to set different exit days for different purposes and replace it with a single exit day – 11pm on 29 March 2019.
“This would create significant difficulties if the negotiations were to continue until the 59th minute of the 11th hour, as the Secretary of State suggested to us might happen.”
The committee also called on ministers to “provide more clarity” on the scope and status of retained EU law to individuals and businesses.
“This should include making clear whether it is to be treated by the courts as primary legislation, so that they cannot rule it to be invalid, or secondary,” Mr Benn added.
“Greater clarity should also be given to assist judges on exactly how they are to apply European Court of Justice decisions issued after exit day."
Four Conservatives and one DUP member of the committee refused to sign off on the critical report.
However, Brexit Secretary David Davis insisted today that putting the leaving date in law was "a good idea".