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Parliament reconvenes, and the Great Repeal Bill is on the agenda
MPs have returned from their summer recess this week. On Thursday, they debated the Great Repeal Bill, a proposed piece of legislation that would convert existing EU laws into UK laws, while giving government ministers extensive powers to reshape the laws using secondary legislation.
The debate was spirited, with a number of pro-Brexit Conservative MPs expressing reservations about the sweeping ‘Henry VII’ powers proposed in the bill. Ian Duncan Smith, a staunch Leaver, urged the government to “think very carefully” about the proposals, while the former Conservative attorney general Dominic Grieve called the bill an “astonishing monstrosity”, saying that key parts of the proposed legislation will need to be changed.
Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer argued that the extensive powers given to government ministers in the repeal bill—the “Great Power Grab Bill”, he called it—could allow workers’ rights and health and safety laws to be watered down without proper parliamentary scrutiny.
The debate is scheduled to continue on Monday.
An end to free movement
On Tuesday, The Guardian reported on a leaked Home Office document containing proposals to end free movement for all but highly-skilled EU workers after Brexit.
The paper says that Britain’s new immigration policy should put British workers first: “Put plainly, this means that, to be considered valuable to the country as a whole, immigration should benefit not just the migrants themselves but also make existing residents better off.”
The paper acknowledges that any proposals on changes to immigration policy are subject to parliamentary approval and the Brexit negotiations with the EU.
For details on the proposals, read The Guardian’s report in full here.
Round three of the negotiations, revisited
The Financial Times reported that small but significant breakthroughs were made in the third round of the Brexit negotiations, which concluded last week. British pensioners living in the EU will reportedly be able to retain their UK pension and agreement was reached on continued access to the European Health Insurance Card system for Brits living in the EU, allowing them to continue to benefit from free medical care.
Britain also agreed not to make changes to the common travel area between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and pledged to continue allowing anyone born in Northern Ireland to choose between Irish and British citizenship.
Despite progress in these areas, the overall picture has been bleak. As I wrote last week, the negotiations continue to be stymied by a failure to agree on a divorce settlement. The EU insists that agreement on this issue be reached before talks can progress to other matters, but on Tuesday David Davis told MPs that talks on the bill could last “the full duration of the negotiations”.
Earlier in the week, reports emerged that the government had privately agreed to pay £50 billion as part of the settlement, but Davis has denied this, telling Andrew Marr that Britain’s position is that “there is no enforceable bill”, but that payments will be made “for space programmes, for nuclear research, and so on.”
The EU added pressure to the dispute last week by demanding that Britain contribute billions of pounds after Brexit for foreign aid, loans to Ukraine and environmental projects. Chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that it would be unfair if the remaining EU member states would have to step in to pay the shortfall left by Britain’s exit.
- Theresa May’s trip to Japan appears to have been a success. She secured a formal commitment from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Japan will enter into a trade deal with the UK after Brexit.
- Jacob Rees-Mogg said on Wednesday that he opposes abortion in any circumstances, including rape. The backbencher is subject to wild speculation about a leadership role in the Conservative party.
Lead photo of the Houses of Parliament. Alexey Shikov / Flickr