Theresa May tries to sidestep more trouble over Brexit Bill with new proposals

Lead Conservative critic Dominic Grieve met ministers on Monday to discuss her plans

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Tuesday 09 January 2018 22:27 GMT
Theresa May i determined to avoid further rebellions over her Brexit Bill
Theresa May i determined to avoid further rebellions over her Brexit Bill (Getty)

Ministers have proposed further changes to Theresa May’s critical piece of Brexit legislation in a bid to ward off further defeats at the hands of Tory rebels.

Among the proposals are those they say will limit their scope to use so-called “Henry VIII” powers that would allow them to change laws without full parliamentary scrutiny after the UK leaves.

It comes after the Government suffered an embarrassing defeat when rebels led by former attorney general Dominic Grieve voted with Labour to force Ms May to give Parliament a greater say over the final deal she agrees with the EU.

Brexit Minister Steve Baker insisted on Tuesday that the new changes being proposed, consisting of a series of amendments to the EU (withdrawal) Bill, were not a climbdown.

He said: “This is a landmark piece of legislation which is paving the way for our smooth departure from the EU. That’s why our consistent approach to the Bill has been to listen and work with MPs who’ve made constructive suggestions to improve it.

“In bringing forward these amendments today, we’re showing the seriousness with which we take Parliament’s views. We’re looking forward to hearing the debate on these, and further amendments tabled by others, next week.”

Mr Grieve had an appointment at Downing Street on Tuesday to discuss the changes with senior members of the Government.

The Bill will see all EU legislation affecting the UK, transferred on to British statute books on the day of Brexit, and will then grant ministers sweeping powers to alter it without full scrutiny in order to “tidy up” loose ends or anomalies.

But MPs across the House of Commons have raised concerns that unless the powers are restricted to a greater degree than initially proposed, ministers may use them to make deeper changes without having to properly consult Parliament.

Changes being proposed would include limits on ministers’ powers to use the “Henry VIII” powers – in particular by providing an “exhaustive list” of situations in which this power can be used.

Tory rebellion leads to defeat of Government over Brexit amendment

An extension of three months after the date of Brexit will be granted for people wishing to launch court cases over alleged breaches of the general principles of EU law.

Meanwhile, a further proposal states that devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have to consult with the UK Government, rather than seeking its consent, before using “correcting powers” to amend EU rules as they are transferred to domestic law.

The Bill survived its committee stage with only one Government defeat, and will return to the Commons for its final report stage and third reading on January 16 and 17 before moving on to the House of Lords, where it is expected to face tough scrutiny.

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