ReutersLONDON (Reuters) — Britain was to publish on Thursday the legislation that will sever its political and legal ties to the European Union, beginning what is likely to be a divisive debate that will test Prime Minister Theresa May’s ability to lead the country.
The Repeal Bill is central to the government’s plan to exit the EU in 2019, providing the mechanism for decades of EU law to be turned into British law, and to enact Brexit by repealing the 1972 legislation that made Britain a member.
Its passage through Parliament could make or break May’s future as prime minister. The election she called last month cost her an outright parliamentary majority and reopened the debate on the nature of Britain’s EU exit.
Within May’s Conservative Party, pro-Brexit lawmakers are fiercely defensive of her plan for a clean break with the EU. Pro-Europeans are looking to extract concessions that soften the divorce terms.
Rebellion by either side could derail the legislation and test May’s ability to negotiate a compromise or find support from opposition parties. If she fails, her position could swiftly become untenable.
“It is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that has ever passed through Parliament and is a major milestone in the process of our withdrawal from the European Union,” Brexit minister David Davis said in a statement
The publication of the bill is the first step in a long legislative process, with no formal debate in Parliament expected on Thursday. It will be closely examined to see how the government plans to carry out the difficult and time-consuming technical exercise of transposing EU law.
Lawmakers have expressed concern that the sheer volume of work created by the shift could limit Parliament’s ability to scrutinize it effectively and ensure the government is not introducing policy change by the back door.
The bill will also face scrutiny from British companies, many of which have spent the year since Britons voted to leave the EU trying to figure out how the change will affect their business.
A successful shift to British law is crucial for many industries that depend on EU-wide regulation.
Davis said the bill would enable Britain to exit the EU with “maximum certainty, continuity and control.”
But the financial industry, a major component of Britain’s $2.5 trillion economy, is already warning that the government has left it too late to convince them it can strike a deal to soften the impact of Brexit before they start shifting jobs from London.
May’s attempts to build broad political support for the Brexit plan she set out in January, which involves leaving the EU’s single market and prioritizing immigration control, have so far fallen on deaf ears.
The opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn has committed to Brexit. But, emboldened by a surge in public support for his leftist agenda, he has set out his own parallel plan for Brexit, hoping that May’s government will fall.
No full release of terrorism report
The British government said on Wednesday it would not publish in full its report on the sources of funding of Islamist extremism in Britain, prompting opposition charges that it was trying to protect its ally Saudi Arabia.
The report, commissioned in November 2015 by then-Prime Minister David Cameron, was handed to the government last year, and ministers have been under pressure to release its findings following three deadly attacks in Britain since March which have been blamed on Islamist militants.
Home Secretary (interior minister) Amber Rudd said that though some extremist Islamist organizations were receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds, she had decided against publishing the review in full.
“This is because of the volume of personal information it contains and for national security reasons,” she said in a written statement to Parliament.
The review found the most common source of support for these organizations was from small, anonymous donations from people based in Britain, according to Rudd.
But it also found overseas funding was a significant source of income for a small number of organizations.
“Overseas support has allowed individuals to study at institutions that teach deeply conservative forms of Islam and provide highly socially conservative literature and preachers to the UK’s Islamic institutions,” Rudd’s statement said. “Some of these individuals have since become of extremist concern.”
Critics were quick to see a cover-up to shield Saudi Arabia, a powerful Gulf ally of Britain and the world’s biggest oil exporter. The Home Office later released a statement denying this.