The EU Withdrawal Bill (previously known as the Great Repeal Bill) has now completed its passage through the House of Commons and has moved onto the House of Lords.
New Europeans is part of the Repeal Bill Alliance, aiming to fix the EU Withdrawal Bill and protect our democratic and human rights.
The bill is designed to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972 which sets out the UK’s legal relationship with the EU and allows UK law to be updated in line with EU rules. It will come into effect on the day that the UK leaves the EU , i.e. on the 29 March 2019, unless the EU and UK agree otherwise.
At the same time the bill aims to bring all existing EU laws applying to the UK into UK law, in order to prevent a sudden legal vacuum when Britain leaves the EU.
In doing this, the bill creates a new category of domestic UK law: retained EU law.
The House of Commons library estimates that this amounts to around 7,000 pieces of EU legislation.
In incorporating all existing EU law into UK law, the bill will enable the current and future UK governments to review this retained EU law after Brexit takes place, with a view to proposing revisions, amendments and repeal of aspects of it.
The bill is highly controversial because of the powers it will give to the government to make changes to this body of law without parliamentary scrutiny.
The government says it will be necessary to “edit” these laws as they are incorporated into UK law so that they make sense and the affected legal frameworks and policy areas can still function post-Brexit.
But democracy campaigners argue that this goes way beyond what is necessary as the bill gives ministers power to use delegated legislation to enable changes to be made to laws enacted by parliament with little or no parliamentary scrutiny over broad areas of regulation and policy.
A report on the bill by the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution in September stated that
"The number, range and overlapping nature of the broad delegated powers” the bill enables would create “an unprecedented and extraordinary portmanteau of effectively unlimited powers upon which the Government could draw.”
These include the possible use of so-called Henry VIII powers (named after the 16th century statute that gave the king the power to legislate by proclamation) whereby primary legislation (Acts of Parliament) can be amended or repealed by subordinate legislation without further parliamentary scrutiny.
And although other areas of EU law will be incorporated, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights will not be brought into UK law, blowing a hole in human rights protections in the UK.
The bill also enables the implementation of any agreement reached between the UK and the rest of the EU on the future UK-EU relationship post-Brexit.
A group of Conservative MPs however joined with opposition MPs to back an important amendment to the bill in the House of Commons committee stage at the end of last year .
The amendment requires parliament’s agreement to a separate Act of Parliament on the terms of the eventual withdrawal agreement before it can implement any withdrawal provisions.
This was the government’s only defeat on the bill so far, although it has also accepted other amendments to the bill,.
For example the Government has agreed to establish a new parliamentary committee to provide recommendations on how any proposed changes to retained EU law under the bill should be approved by Parliament.
But democracy campaigners say these changes do not go far enough.
The Repeal Bill Alliance, which brings together over 50 civil society organisation with concerns about the bill – including New Europeans - says the bill still threatens our democratic and human rights.
The Repeal Bill Alliance is organising a number of events, including webinars with guest speakers to inform, engage and listen to the concerns of civil society.
A timetable for the House of Lords Committee stage can be found here