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Questions hang over EU Withdrawal Bill

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By Edna Mohamed, MA Postcolonial Studies

After the Brexit vote in June in which voters chose to leave the European Union, the intensely debated outcome of the vote has introduced questions of how this will work both legally and economically. The EU withdrawal bill, formally known as the ‘Great Repeal Bill’, aims to end the power that the European Courts of Justice had within the UK, including the laws that the English parliamentary body still abides by as a result of membership of the EU.

In a report by the House of Commons library, the withdrawal bill is “one of the largest legislative projects undertaken in the UK…[with] major swathes of the statute book” having to be examined in close detail. Considering that a sizeable amount of implemented British law is derived from EU law, the inspection laws as they stand will be a laborious job. The government’s white paper for leaving the European Union stated “there is no single figure for how much EU law already forms part of UK law. According to EUR-Lex, the EU’s legal database, there are currently over 12,000 EU regulations in force.”

The EU Withdrawal Bill now set to be debated on by parliament on the 4th December. The debate will set out how the UK will leave the EU with the least amount of difficulty. Members of Parliament have currently proposed more than 470 amendments to the bill asking for changes before it reaches both the House of Common and House of Lords.

The bill setting out which EU laws will be adopted into British law and which will not. This decision will face a lot of controversy. Most recently, the question of animal sentience has questioned the dependability of the government by animal rights activists. The Lisbon Treaty sets out that animals are sentient creatures, but MPs have voted against adopting this piece of legislation into UK law. The government has argued that their refusal to adopt this law does not mean the rejection of animal care, but that after Brexit it will guarantee animal protection, under explicit UK law.

But this has not appeased everyone, notably the leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas. She told the House of Commons: “The government have rightly and commendably committed to transferring all existing EU law on animal welfare into UK law under the bill, but because the text of the Lisbon treaty is not transferred by the bill, the wording of article 13 on animal sentience will not explicitly be incorporated into UK law. The UK has no legal instrument other than article 13 of the Lisbon treaty to provide that animals are sentient beings.”

This is only the beginning of the decision to accept or reject EU law in the Brexit process. It is likely that it can only get more contested on as the amendments mount; especially with questions on what role EU law is to have in post-Brexit Britain. As it stands, the UK is going to be leaving the European Union two years to the day that it triggered Article 50, on March 29 this year, unless the UK and other EU member states agree on an extension.

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