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British MPs begin debating crucial Brexit bill

Friday, September 08, 2017
By Aditi Khanna

London: British lawmakers today began debating a crucial Bill that will end the supremacy of European Union (EU) law and replace them with domestic statute on the day Britain leaves the economic bloc.

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will convert all existing EU laws, dating back over 40 years, into UK law in time for Brexit by March 2019.

Opening the debate in the House of Commons alongside Prime Minister Theresa May, the UK's minister for exiting the EU – David Davis – said the bill was "the next step in the historic process of honouring that decision" made in the EU referendum and will ensure that "on the day we leave, businesses know where they stand".

He told MPs: "I stand ready to listen to those who offer improvements to the bill in the spirit of preparing our statute book for withdrawal from the European Union."

He urged all parties to work with the government "in the spirit of collaboration", rejecting Opposition claims that he was attempting to change laws without proper Parliamentary scrutiny.

"It is only what is necessary for a smooth exit and to provide stability," he said.

However, the passage of the Bill is expected to prove a tumultuous task for May as she faces a cross-party rebellion.

The Opposition Labour party has refused to vote for the Bill in its current form, describing it as a "power grab" on the part of the Conservative party-led government by using so-called Henry VIII powers to make laws by "decree".

May's own Tory MPs have been unifying behind a plan for a cross-party committee of peers and MPs to monitor such powers going forward.

But with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the Tories are expected to get the Bill through its parliamentary hurdle, with some Conservative backbenchers claiming they reserve the right to amend and improve it at a later stage.

While overturning the 1972 European Communities Act, which took the UK into the then European Economic Community, the new legislation will ensure all direct EU laws applying to the UK will be transferred onto the statute book and continue to have legal force after the UK's withdrawal.

MPs are considering the general principles of the bill at its Second Reading which started today, with the first votes expected by Monday.

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