The “Great Repeal Bill” – White Paper:

The Government’s first objective as we negotiate a new deep and special partnership with the European Union is to provide business, the public sector, and everybody in our country with as much certainty as possible as we move through the process.

This clarity will help people to plan effectively, recruit appropriately and invest as necessary while the negotiations continue and the new partnership we will enjoy with the European Union is being formed.

We have already been able to provide some clarity and reassurance in certain sectors. For example, last year the Government acted quickly to give certainty about farm payments and university funding. And we have also pledged to put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force.

Our decision to convert the ‘acquis’ – the body of European legislation – into UK law at the moment we repeal the European Communities Act is an essential part of this plan.

This approach will provide maximum certainty as we leave the EU. The same rules and laws will apply on the day after exit as on the day before. It will then be for democratically elected representatives in the UK to decide on any changes to that law, after full scrutiny and proper debate.

This White Paper explains how we will legislate for this approach by introducing a Great Repeal Bill at the start of the next parliamentary session. This Bill will, wherever practical and appropriate, convert EU law into UK law from the day we leave so that we can make the right decisions in the national interest at a time that we choose.

The Great Repeal Bill is an important part of our plan to deliver a smooth and orderly Brexit that commands the confidence of all. The task ahead may be significant, but I am confident we can make it a success. This White Paper is an essential step along the way.

Rt Hon Theresa May MP

Prime Minister

Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (pdf)

Theresa May now has the chance to reshape Britain

So, it’s a General Election. The Fixed Term Parliaments Act proved as impotent as its opponents had always said it would be. Roll on June 8. After the Scottish referendum of 2014, General Election of 2015, and EU referendum of 2016, this will be the fourth year in a row with an epochal vote for the UK.

One difference between this year’s vote and the other three is that there is no real doubt about the outcome. The only two questions are how massive Theresa May’s massive majority will be and how catastrophic Labour’s catastrophic defeat. In 1923, the Liberal Party won 158 seats — the last time it was a serious contender for government. Can Labour do better than that, and maintain the illusion, just a little longer, that it might one day recover?

Aside from Jeremy Corbyn’s personal haplessness, the three really big reasons the Conservatives will win big and Labour will be gutted are Scotland, Brexit and the economy.

Labour has never won an overall majority in a General Election without winning a majority in Scotland. Yet they only have one Scottish MP at present. And there’s every chance the Conservatives will get more. Under their dynamic leader Ruth Davidson, the Conservatives are now thoroughly established as the real opposition to the SNP.

The SNP will presumably put seeking a second Scottish independence referendum in their manifesto and claim a mandate. Will the Conservatives say there should be no referendum this coming Parliament? Or could they agree to a 2022 independence referendum, once Brexit is out of the way, drawing the SNP’s sting?

On Brexit, Labour remains appallingly split. A rump want to keep arguing for a second referendum. Others want to move on. For the Conservatives, Brexit means it will pick up votes from Ukip, now that party’s raison d’etre is gone. If you want Brexit, vote for the government that’s promising Brexit. What point is there in voting Ukip now?

The Conservatives may even pick up quite a few votes in northern England, where former Labour voters (some of whom may not have voted for several elections) have crossed the Rubicon by voting against Labour in the EU referendum and now might be harvested for the Conservatives.

On the economy, the Tories can claim their policies of the last seven years have been dully effective. We have very low unemployment. Growth has been steady if not spectacular. Things could have been a lot worse – for example if Jeremy Corbyn had been in charge.

And during the campaign, voters will be exposed to the full force of Corbyn’s deranged economic programme and philosophy. There will probably be a series of Tory election broadcasts that do little more than repeat Jeremy Corbyn’s own views in his own words. There’s no need for spin.

One useful thing an early General Election does is to get the Conservatives out of various of the daft election pledges made in 2015. We saw in the debacle of the 2017 Spring Budget how 2015 promises were making policy awkward.

What could go? Obviously they won’t want to continue with the pledges of no change to self-employed taxation or NI. They probably won’t want to pledge to ringfence spending on pensioner benefits any longer, either.

Other spending pledges to keep an eye out for might be commitments on international development and defence. The pledge for these might be combined in some way? Could they be really brave and refuse to pledge to ringfence NHS spending? If they are ever going to get rid of that absurd pledge, a can’t-lose election like this would be the time.

Connected to the above might be migration issues. Surely they can’t pledge to keep net migration to an average of below 100,000 over this parliament? Maybe some modified vague pledge such as promising, by the next election, to be getting net migration “down closer towards” 100,000? They might also promise to end free movement with the EU “by the end of this parliament”. That could allow up to three years of transitional arrangements, giving May some helpful wriggle room in the Brexit talks.

We can pretty much bank on May getting a majority greater than 100, perhaps north of 150. With no opposition worthy of the name, she will have full freedom to do whatever she likes domestically for the foreseeable future. Time for all those right-wing think-tanks to flaunt their wares. The UK could look a very different country by the time all this is done.

By

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Michael Howard is right, Gibraltar is ours and PM should do anything to defend it!

Maggie Thatcher went to war with Argentina when British sovereign land was under threat, so why shouldn’t Theresa May be prepared to do anything to defend Gibraltar? Former Tory leader Michael Howard said at the weekend that the PM would show the same resolve that Thatcher showed 35 years ago over the Falklands, and I say good on her! I have been to Gibraltar many times, and the people are more patriotic about the UK than most people in Britain! I got the views of locals on the diplomatic row that’s erupted between us and Spain. I spoke to Chris Peach, a listener who lives in the territory, and Andy Hunter, owner of The Lord Nelson pub as well as several other businesses in Gibraltar.

What is it that gives the Spanish the right to think that they can bully us over Gibraltar? I’m guessing they’re not planning on giving up the Canary Islands any time soon! Maybe it’s because we don’t have enough politicians who are prepared to talk tough about this. Politicians like William Dartmouth MEP, UKIP MEP for South-West England, which includes Gibraltar. He’s been in Gibraltar over the weekend, so I spoke to him live from Spain to get his thoughts. William was clear: no matter what Madrid thinks, Gibraltar is, and must remain, British!

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Reunifying Ireland: An EU law perspective

On 23 June 2016, Northern Ireland was one of the two UK constituent nations that voted to remain in the EU. Following that, Sinn Féin has called for a referendum for the unification of Ireland and thus for Northern Ireland to remain in the EU. This discussion has intensified after the most recent Northern Ireland Assembly election where the Unionist vote was significantly reduced.

Independently of whether such development is politically prudent and/or feasible, one has to note that, legally speaking, ‘Westminster has formally conceded that Northern Ireland can secede from the United Kingdom to join a united Ireland, if its people, and the people of the Irish Republic, voting separately, agree to this.’ Section 1 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 is a rare example of a provision of a constitutional statute that explicitly recognises the right of secession of a region (see also the Good Friday Agreement). According to Schedule 1 of the Northern Ireland Act, however, such a referendum can only be organised if ‘it appears likely to [the UK Secretary of State] that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.’ Theresa Villiers, the former Northern Ireland Secretary has made clear that, according to her, ‘there is nothing to indicate that there is majority support for a poll.’

Still, if in the future, the majority of the people in Northern Ireland democratically decide to secede from the UK and join the Republic of Ireland, the EU legal order is able to accommodate such political development. The secession of Northern Ireland will not mean the creation of a new (Member-)State. Instead, it will trigger the territorial expansion of an EU Member State to which EU law already applies in accordance with Article 52 TEU. In a way, the reunification of Ireland could follow the precedent of the German reunification where the application of the acquis was extended to East Germany without an amendment of the primary legislation. The difference is that, in the case of Germany, the EU acquis did not apply at all in the East before the reunification, something that is very different with the situation in Northern Ireland.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has asked recently for a special provision in any Brexit deal to allow Northern Ireland to rejoin the EU should it be united with the Republic. He did so, notwithstanding the fact that a special deal for Northern Ireland is the declared goal of the UK government.

So, the question is how could such a provision look like?

Obviously, there are not many EU law provisions that regulate the (re)unification of (Member-)States. The closest example is Article 4 of Protocol No 10 on Cyprus of the Act of Accession 2003. Protocol No 10 provides the terms for the application of EU law in Cyprus given that the island had not been unified at the moment it joined the EU. In particular, it provides for the suspension of the application of the acquis in northern Cyprus, a suspension which shall be lifted in the event of a solution.

If such solution occurs in the future, Article 4 provides for a simplified procedure that enables the Union to accommodate the terms of the reunification plan. In particular, Article 4 allows the EU, by a unanimous Council Decision at a future date and in the event of reunification, to alter the terms of Cyprus’ EU accession that are contained in the Act of Accession 2003. In other words, it allows the Council to amend primary law (ie Act of Accession 2003) with a unanimous decision.

This might sound like a heresy. However, the Treaties foresee special procedures for their amendment in some cases. The best example, for the purposes of this post, is the Council decision on the basis of Article 2(2) of the 1994 Accession Treaty which adjusted the instruments of accession after Norway’s failure to ratify. Several Articles of this Accession Treaty and of the Act of Accession were amended by a Council decision while other provisions were declared to have lapsed. Thus, in that case, the Council, itself, amended primary law in a simplified procedure without any ratification of the Member States.

To the extent that the ‘Brexit’ Agreement will be considered as part of primary law, a similar provision regulating the reunification of Ireland could be included and could assist the smooth transitioning of Northern Ireland back to the EU. Of course, the question of the reunification of Ireland –as many other questions related to Brexit- is first and foremost political. It is important to point out, however, that EU law is flexible enough to accommodate such political developments.

Barnard & Peers: chapter 27

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