LONDON — Pro-Remain Conservative MPs are threatening to block a key piece of Brexit legislation if negotiations with the European Union go badly.
Tory MPs are willing to vote against the Great Repeal Bill, which if passed will repeal the European Communities Act (1972) and transpose thousands of EU laws that currently affect the UK into British domestic law, The Times reports.
Prime Minister Theresa May has described the bill as a means of “taking back control” as it would give the government and parliament the power to choose which EU laws it wants to keep in Britain, amend or discard altogether.
However, pro-Remain Conservative MPs are prepared to take the “nuclear option” by blocking the Great Repeal Bill.
One senior Tory told the Times: “The big thing in the bill is the repeal of the ECA 1972. If negotiations are going badly and Brexiteers are out of control, we will just refuse to repeal it.”
Another added that the Great Repeal Bill will give MPs an opportunity to “draw a line” and block May from carrying out her Brexit plans in full if there is a concern about the direction that she is taking the country.
There is also concern that government will use the Bill as a “power grab” in order to bypass parliamentary scrutiny.
As Business Insider’s Adam Bienkov pointed out earlier this month, the Great Repeal Bill will include thousands upon thousands of EU laws and regulations, which in all likelihood would take parliament a number of years to make its way through.
With this in mind, May reportedly plans to use secondary legislation to push some laws through parliament without proper scrutiny, effectively granting her government the power to amend or erase swathes of law at the swipe of a pen.
Critics refer to this part of the Bill as the “Henry VIII clause” in reference to the dictatorial British king who forced through many pieces of legislation without parliament’s approval while on the throne.
A House of Lords committee has warned that it will “involve a massive transfer of legislative competence from Parliament to Government” and raise “constitutional concerns of a fundamental nature, concerning as it does the appropriate balance of power between the legislature and executive.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Sunday that his party will block the Great Repeal Bill if May tries to bypass proper parliamentary scrutiny at any stage.
Speaking to ITV’s Robert Peston on Sunday, Corbyn said:
“We’re not going to sit there and hand over powers to this government to override parliament, override democracy and just set down a series of diktats on what’s going to happen in the future.
“We’d be failing in our duty as democratically elected parliamentarians if we did that.”
Corbyn added: “I don’t think the record of Henry VIII on promoting democracy, inclusion and participation was a very good one. He was all about essentially dictatorial powers to bypass what was then a very limited parliamentary power.
“We need total accountability, at every stage of this whole Brexit negotiation.”
The government is set to publish a white paper on Thursday which will outline Great Repeal Bill in detail.
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