- Neill Hall/Reuters
- Theresa May’s plan to enshrine Brexit day in law could create “significant difficulties,” in Brexit negotiations, MPs warn.
- The government is under pressure to withdraw its Brexit day amendment to the withdrawal bill.
- The Brexit select committee has said the government needs to provide “more clarity” on how retained EU law will work after Brexit.
LONDON – Theresa May’s plan to enshrine the date the UK leaves the European Union in law will create “significant difficulties” for the government if Brexit negotiations go down to the wire, MPs have warned.
The prime minister announced last Friday that the government would support an amendment to the withdrawal bill to make March 29, 2017, legally the date that Brexit happens.
However, a new report by the cross-party Exiting the EU Select Committee say this would “create significant difficulties if, as the Secretary of State suggested to us in evidence, the negotiations went down to the 59th minute of the 11th hour.”
The government has already been put under pressure to remove their amendment after up to 20 Conservative MPs indicated that they would vote against it.
Hilary Benn, the chairman of the 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.”
The prime minister’s spokesperson said on Friday that the government would not withdraw its changes to the withdrawal bill.
“What the amendment does is provide certainty over our position that we are leaving the EU on March 29, 2019. We would encourage all MPs to support it,” they said.
Asked by Business Insider whether they were suggesting that the two year process set out in Article 50 was “uncertain,” they replied again that “We think this amendment provides certainty.”
However, there were signs that the government could surrender over the issue.
Brexit Secretary David Davis told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme on Friday morning: “The whole of the [Brexit withdrawal] bill is going to be debated in the house and there are parts of it that will have to be reviewed undoubtedly.”
A spokesperson for the prime minister said the government would listen to parliament.
Best for Britain CEO Eloise Todd said: “The government should drop this idiotic departure date amendment. It is a stupid political gimmick that the government are hoping we get obsessed about instead of securing a truly meaningful vote at the end of this process. It just won’t work.
“Theresa May should stop pandering to the extreme Brexiteers in her party. For once, she should put the national interests above her own party interests.”
The report also warned that the government needs to provide more clarity on how retained EU law should work after Brexit, saying that “ambiguities risk undermining the Bill’s ability to supply legal certainty, a fundamental feature of the rule of law.”
The withdrawal bill will transpose all EU law into British law so that the legal system continues as it does at the moment after Brexit.
The committee said: “Government needs to provide more clarity and information on the scope and status of retained EU law, including 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.
“Greater clarity should also be given to assist judges on exactly how they are to apply CJEU [European Court of Justice] decisions issued after exit day.”
In August former Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger said that the government must provide clarity on how European Court of Justice rulings should be dealt with after Brexit or judges will be forced to merely “do their best” in confusing legal circumstances.
Benn said: “The EU (Withdrawal) Bill marks a significant moment in the process of leaving the EU. As our Report makes clear, this is anything but a straightforward task as all existing EU legislation will need to be copied across into UK law to ensure continuity after exit day.
“With an estimated 800-1000 statutory instruments, Parliament will need to work hard to make this happen.”