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UK government criticized for Brexit draft

By CONAL URQUHART | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-03-31 18:13

Administration accused of seeking unlimited power through new bill

The British government was criticized by opposition parties after it revealed its plans for domestic legislation to facilitate the UK's withdrawal from the EU on Thursday.

The government published its discussion paper - Legislating for the United Kingdom's Withdrawal from the European Union- which proposed that it adopts sweeping powers to amend and change legislation without recourse to Parliament.

The document, known as a "white paper", is like a first draft of a legislative bill, which can be changed substantially before Parliament votes on it. The paper outlines that in order for the UK to leave the EU with the minimum chaos, the government has decided that all European laws and regulations - some 8,000 -have to be incorporated into British law. This would mean that all the same laws would apply in the UK the day before Brexit and the day after.

David Davis, the minister for the UK's withdrawal from the EU, said that government would need to take new powers to ensure the smooth transition from membership of the EU to non-membership but they would only be used for technical issues and would be time-limited.

He told Parliament on Thursday: "Given the scale of the changes that will be necessary and the finite amount of time available to make them, there is a balance to be struck between the importance of scrutiny and correcting the statute book in time."

Keir Starmer, speaking for the Labour Party, said the government planned a power grab.

He said: "In those circumstances one might expect some pretty rigorous safeguards to the use of these sweeping powers, but none are found in the white paper."

Caroline Lucas of the Green Party tweeted: "Far from being 'technical', #GreatRepealBill is huge attack on our democracy: Gov wants unlimited power to amend law. We will fight this."

The events of Thursday demonstrate that the British government faces complex challenges at home as well as abroad in its effort to leave the EU. The government has a majority of 17 and can be outvoted if anti-European or pro-European Conservative MPs vote with the opposition parties.

The Brexit legislation will provide hundreds of opportunities for government defeat in the next two years, any of which may persuade it to call an early general election.

According to current opinion polls, the Conservatives would likely increase their majority substantially in an election, but having one would disrupt its two-year timetable for leaving the EU. Also, an election could split and weaken the Conservatives as they dispute what kind of relationship they want with the EU.

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