House of Lords set to thwart unacceptable Brexit bonfire of EU law

Boris Johnson discusses partygate and Brexit three years on

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Peers in the House of Lords are braced to thwart the Government’s attempt to repeal a swathe of EU laws. The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, debated in the House of Lords tonight, will see the Government repeal any Brussels legislation still on the UK statute book after Brexit. It includes a 2023 sunset clause, meaning ministers have until the end of next year to complete their review of the legislation.

But Labour peer Lord Hendy described the implications of the bill as being “unacceptable”, accusing the Government of “flouting” obligations.

He told the House of Lords: “Most employment rights to health and safety are EU law.

“All a minster has to do is sit on his hands and all these vital protections, hitherto enjoyed by our 30 million workers will disappear in a puff of smoke without parliamentary scrutiny.

“That’s unacceptable and it also appears to be a flouting of the obligations we undertook to maintain and implement health and safety laws”.

Meanwhile, Lib Dem Peer Baroness Humphreys said the bill represents a “blatant attack on the powers of the UK parliament”, claiming it “makes a mockery of the supposed argument for Brexit”.

She explained: “In 2018, the EU Withdrawal Act promised that parliament and the devolved legislatures would be able to decide which elements of some 3,000 or 4,000 pieces of retained EU law to keep, amend or repeal when the UK had left the EU.

“This retained EU law bill cuts across that pledge nad makes a mockery of the supposed argument for Brexit that the UK Parliament would be supreme and would be responsible for making our laws once we had left the EU.

“This bill gives unfettered authority to ministers, through secondary legislation, bypassing both the UK parliament and the Senned in wales.

“Such a blatant attack on the powers of the UK Parliament might be unusual but in Wales we’ve become rather used to this type of treatment, especially since 2019.”

The Bill had been expected to run into significant opposition in the Lords but Conservative Brexiteer MPs will expect Sunak to invoke the Parliament Act to bypass the second chamber.

Earlier today, Tory peers joined the rebellion against the bill, signing a cross-party letter expressing fury at the legislation.

The letter to Lord Callanan, the minister overseeing the Bill in the Lords, was organised by Labour MP Stella Creasy, who chairs the pro-EU Labour Movement for Europe.

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It has been signed by Tory peers including Lord Clarke, Lord Powell, Lord Patten and Lord Young, as well as Labour figures such as former TUC chairman Baroness O’Grady.

The signatories are understood to have branded the legislation as “disastrous”.

They are also demanding more oversight on decisions over axing retained EU laws.

Ms Creasy told The Telegraph: “MPs and Lords in all parties are of one mind this Bill represents a fundamental shift of power that must be rewritten.

“Our constituents expect us to be able to make direct representations and amendments to legislation when their rights are at stake, not simply to be handed ‘like it or lump it’ proposals to rubber-stamp.

“Their lordships have picked up the baton for parliamentary sovereignty – it is up to us all to defend it.”

The rebellion could force major changes to the Bill as the Tories do not have an overall majority in the Lords.

It comes after Conservative former Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg last month warned peers against obstructing the legislation.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who spearheaded the Bill during his time in government, said: “As the Bill passed the Commons with a large majority I hope the Lords will recognise its strong democratic mandate. Although there are many Peers who have never liked the referendum result they are there to revise technical detail not to obstruct the voters.”

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