World

Britain's repeal bill a step towards Brexit

Legislation to sever ties published, three position papers fleshed out

LONDON: Britain published legislation yesterday to sever political, financial and legal ties with the European Union (EU), an important step towards Brexit but one the opposition said it will challenge.

The repeal bill is central to the government's plan to exit the EU in 2019, disentangling Britain from more than 40 years of EU lawmaking and repealing the treaty that first made Britain a member in 1972.

Its passage through Parliament could also make or break Mrs Theresa May's future as prime minister.

"It is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that has ever passed through Parliament and is a major milestone in the process of our withdrawal from the EU," Brexit minister David Davis said in a statement.

The government also fleshed out its negotiating stance with the EU, publishing three position papers that underlined that Britain would quit nuclear body Euratom and leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Mrs May faces a battle even within her own Conservative Party to stick to her plan of a clean break - pro-Brexit lawmakers will give her little room for movement, while pro-Europeans are looking to soften the divorce terms.

Rebellion by either side could derail the legislation and test Mrs May's ability to negotiate a compromise or find support from opposition parties. If she fails, her position could swiftly become untenable.

Mrs May faces a battle even within her own Conservative Party to stick to her plan of a clean break.

The publication of the bill is the first step in a long legislative process to ease Brexit, which is stretching the government with the sheer volume of issues to cover - a report by the government's spending watchdog said Britain's planned new customs system might not be ready in time for Brexit, adding to a list of concerns over the government's plans.

"We have been clear from the outset that we are putting the resources in place, have got the resources in place that we need to deliver on Brexit," Mrs May's spokesman told reporters.

The bill, which Parliament has yet to set a date to debate, set out powers for ministers - with the approval of Parliament - to correct laws to ensure they work after being brought into British law. These powers will exist until two years after the day Britain leaves.

Lawmakers have expressed concern that the sheer volume of work could limit their ability to scrutinise the changes effectively and fear the government will introduce policy change by the back door.

Main opposition Labour Party has said it would oppose the bill unless it met six conditions, including guarantees for workers' rights.

Mr Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said he will work to soften Mrs May's stance, promising her that "this will be hell".

The bill will also face scrutiny from British companies, many of which have spent the year since Britons voted by 52 percent to 48 to leave the EU trying to figure out how the change will affect their business. - REUTERS

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