New appeal for MPs to 'work together' on Brexit ahead of Repeal Bill publication
The Brexit Secretary made a fresh appeal for MPs to "work together" on Britain's exit from the European Union ahead of the publication on Thursday of the major Repeal Bill to remove the supremacy of Brussels law.
David Davis described the first piece of Government legislation relating to Brexit since the triggering of Article 50 in March as one of the most significant Bills ever to come to Parliament.
But he was warned by Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron that the Government faces "hell" as it tries to get the Bill through the Houses of Commons and Lords.
The legislation, which will be known as the European Union (Withdrawal Bill), is a central plank in the Government's Brexit strategy but is expected to be the subject of fierce battles between MPs and peers over the shape of the country's exit.
Parliamentarians will get their first chance to pore over its contents and consider how they may seek to amend it in an attempt to change the direction of the UK's exit from the EU.
It is expected to be published late on Thursday morning, depending on Commons business, but is not expected to be formally debated until Autumn.
Theresa May's call this week for opposition parties to work together after the Tories lost their Commons majority at the election was widely interpreted as an acknowledgement of the difficulties her minority Government could face in getting the Bill through Parliament.
And her words were echoed by Mr Davis who said he would "work with anyone" to achieve Brexit.
The Bill is designed to transpose EU law into British law so the same rules apply on the day of Brexit as the day before, while giving parliaments and assemblies in Westminster, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff the power to drop or change them in the future.
The Government hopes it will give confidence to businesses, workers and consumers that they will not face unexpected changes on the day of Brexit, while ending the supremacy of EU law in the UK.
Mr Davis said: "This Bill means that we will be able to exit the European Union with maximum certainty, continuity and control. That is what the British people voted for and it is exactly what we will do - ensure that the decisions that affect our lives are taken here in the UK.
"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 European Union.
"By working together, in the national interest, we can ensure we have a fully functioning legal system on the day we leave the European Union.
"The eyes of the country are on us and I will work with anyone to achieve this goal and shape a new future for our country."
As presented, the Bill will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 which took Britain into the EU and remove the supremacy of Brussels law, convert EU law into UK law where appropriate, and create temporary powers to correct laws that will not operate appropriately after Brexit.
Mr Farron said: "The Government cannot use the Great Repeal Bill to get their way. We have been learning the lessons of Maastricht and I am putting the Government on warning. If you found the Article 50 Bill difficult, you should be under no illusion, this will be hell.
"If the Government try any wheeze or trick to force through changes to vital protections, from workers' rights to the environment, they are playing with fire.
"I am keen to work across party lines to do everything we can to protect these rights.
"If this Tory Brexit Government and their Labour cheerleaders think this will be waved through, they have another thing coming."
Separately, the Government will also publish three position papers for exit negotiations.
One will cover nuclear materials and safeguards issues and will be studied closely by opposition parties and Tory MPs who have expressed concerns about the Government's commitment to leaving Euratom, Europe's civil nuclear regulator.
The other two papers will cover ongoing union judicial and administrative proceedings, and privileges and immunities.
They will be presented to the European Commission for discussion in the second round of formal exit negotiations in Brussels next week.
The publication of the Bill and position papers will come as Jeremy Corbyn meets the Commission's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Brussels.
Mr Barnier will also meet Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones for private talks ahead of the second round of formal negotiations in Brussels next week.
But he stressed that he will negotiate only with the UK Government.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would not support the Bill in its current form.
He demanded concessions in six areas, including ensuring workers' rights in the UK do not fall behind those in the EU, incorporating the European Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law, and limiting the scope of so-called "Henry VIII powers", which could allow the Government to alter legislation without full parliamentary scrutiny.
Sir Keir told the Guardian: "We have very serious issues with the Government's approach, and unless the Government addresses those issues, we will not be supporting the Bill."
Plaid Cymru warned it would vote against the Bill if there are any attempts to bring EU powers back to the UK Government that should fall under Welsh Assembly control.
Brexit spokesman Hywel Williams said: "Any attempt to water down devolution and Welsh nationhood will be firmly opposed by Plaid Cymru, as will any attempts to trespass on devolved responsibilities.
"If the Bill turns out to be as bad as all the indications suggest it will be, then Plaid Cymru will be doing everything we can to stop it in its tracks."