After the summer recess Parliament resumed on Tuesday in preparation for a busy legislative session. David Davis made an opening statement to report on the current state of the Brexit negotiations with the European Union. He robustly defended the British position and made it clear that while the UK would meet her legal obligations so far there was no evidence that any sum of money would fall due. Sensibly he did not rule out contributions if we wish to involve ourselves in joint projects with the EU in future.
On Thursday there will be the first day of debate on the Second Reading of the Repeal Bill. This is the legislation that will give effect to the process of our departure. It is not the law that causes us to leave, that has already been passed. What it does do is transfer the body of EU law that has been built up in the UK since 1973 into our own domestic law. It will, if passed, ensure that there are no gaps in the legal structures on the day of departure.
The major part of it is technical and administrative, the controversial element concerns the so-called “Henry VIII powers” which allow primary legislation, that is Acts of Parliament, to be altered by a lesser form of legislation. It is not the power grab envisioned by Henry VIII in his unsuccessful Act of Proclamations 1539, repealed in 1547, but it is still a means of changing something senior by a junior measure. If it is limited to minor technical matters, such as changing a name from the European to the British Agency, it will not be too problematic especially if the power is also limited in time but if it goes further it would require careful parliamentary oversight. After all we have not taken back control from Brussels to give it away to Whitehall, it is for Parliament and the British people.