Theresa May is preparing for a Tory rebellion over key Brexit legislation

  • Prime Minister Theresa May facing a rebellion from Tory MPs over the Great Repeal Bill.
  • Conservative MPs also want the government to remain under parts of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
  • First Secretary of State Damian Green says UK could remain subject to ECJ during a transitional period.
  • May has said she will work with opposition parties including Labour to ensure Brexit legislation passes.
  • Pro-EU MPs from all parties have formed a group to oppose ‘hard’ Brexit.

LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May is preparing for a mutiny from Conservative Party colleagues over the Great Repeal Bill and the UK’s future relationship with the European Court of Justice.

May will this week pledge to reach out to Labour in order to shore up support for her government on issues like Brexit, where it is feared that rebellious Tory MPs will attempt to defeat the prime minister or force her to soften her stance on Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union.

The Great Repeal Bill will be debated when MPs return to the House of Commons in the Autumn. It was first announced by May at the Conservative Party conference in October and in practice would see all EU law that currently affects UK law transposed into domestic law. From there, parliament will be asked to decide which laws out of the hundreds upon hundreds it wants to keep and those it wants to scrap. The challenge facing parliament was described as the “largest legislative task” by a recent Institute For Government report.

There are fears within government that the Bill faces a rough ride getting through the parliament, with MPs of all parties and political persuasions set to attempt to shape the bill to their own agendas.

By relying on the support of MPs from opposition parties, May could be forced to water down the government’s ‘hard’ positions on Brexit, such as plans to leave key EU institutions and severe Britain’s ties with the ECJ.

On Monday morning, First Secretary of State Damian Green hinted that the UK could remain subject to the ECJ during a transitional period after Brexit.

When asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether this could happen in a transitional period, Green said: “If there needs to be some kind of implementation period, or transition period, in certain areas after March 2019, which I think everyone agrees is quite likely, then the rules that operate during that transition period will by definition not be the rules that we have afterwards.”

Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has previously described Prime Minister May’s position on leaving the ECJ as an “ideological and deeply unhelpful red line.”

Conservative MPs have urged May to reconsider her staunch position on the ECJ. Former attorney-general and Tory MP Dominic Grieve told the Times: “I think we need to continue to keep an open mind on whether the ECJ might in future be a mechanism for resolving disputes in those bodies we are still participating.”

The Liberal Democrats’ Brexit spokesman Tom Brake has said that the debate over the repeal bill will be “legislative war” and the bill will “look like a Christmas tree because of the number of amendments that will be hung on to it,” according to the Financial Times.

Pro-EU MPs from both sides of the House of Commons have formed a cross-party group called the ‘all-party parliamentary group on EU relations’ in order to oppose hard Brexit, including former Tory minister Anna Soubry and prominent Labour backbencher Chuka Umunna.

Umunna told the Guardian: “We won’t accept MPs being treated as spectators in the Brexit process, when we should be on the pitch as active players representing our constituents.”

The Labour MP added: “We will be fighting in parliament for a future relationship with the EU that protects our prosperity and rights at work, and which delivers a better and safer world.”