Europe is not sure how to handle the U.K. after they decided to leave the E.U.
LONDON (AP) — Britain’s chief negotiator in the country’s divorce from the European Union on Thursday rejected suggestions the U.K. has threatened to end security cooperation unless it gets a good trade deal, as the U.K. announced plans for the huge task of replacing thousands of EU laws and regulations with domestic law. All around Europe the buzz continues to be about how to handle the U.K.
Brexit Secretary David Davis said Prime Minister Theresa May’s letter triggering talks on Britain’s departure made clear Britain wants to continue work with Europe and the EU on a range of issues, including security, for both sides.
“We want a deal, and she was making the point that it’s bad for both of us if we don’t have a deal,” Davis told the BBC. “Now that, I think, is a perfectly reasonable point to make and not in any sense a threat.”
May’s six-page letter triggering two years of divorce negotiations makes 11 references to security, and said that without a good deal, “our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.”
The Sun tabloid was in no doubt about what May meant: “Your money or your lives,” was its front-page headline Thursday, along with the words “PM’s Brexit threat to EU.”
Britain is a European security powerhouse – one of only two nuclear powers in the bloc and with some of the world’s most capable intelligence services.
May said Wednesday that Britain will probably have to leave EU police agency Europol after Brexit, but wants to “maintain the degree of cooperation on these matters that we have currently.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, whose responsibilities include intelligence and security, also denied there was a threat, but told Sky News: “If we left Europol, then we would take our information … with us. The fact is, the European partners want to keep our information.”
Senior leaders all over Europe responded positively to the warm overall tone of May’s letter – but they could not miss the steely undertone.
“I find the letter of Mrs. May very constructive generally, but there is also one threat in it,” said European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhoftstadt, saying May seemed to be demanding a good trade deal in exchange for continued security cooperation.
“It doesn’t work like that,” he told Sky News. “You cannot abuse the security of citizens to have then a good deal on something else.”
A day after triggering its EU exit process, the British government began outlining Thursday how it intends to convert thousands of EU rules into British law when it leaves the bloc in 2019.
The government published plans for a Great Repeal Bill that will transform more than 12,000 EU laws in force in Britain into U.K. statute so that “the same rules will apply after exit day” as before. The bill is designed to prevent Britain plunging into a legislative black hole once it extricates itself from the EU.
“It will also ensure we deliver on our promise to end the supremacy of European Union law in the UK as we exit,” Davis said. “Our laws will then be made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast – and interpreted not by judges in Luxembourg, but by judges across the United Kingdom.”
To accomplish the transition, lawmakers will need to delegate authority to the government to change some laws by executive order, using so-called Henry VIII clauses.
While the government says it will only use such powers to clean up technical issues, opposition lawmakers are unhappy at plans to give government ministers power to change some laws without votes in Parliament.
They fear the Conservative government will use it as a chance to water down workers’ rights and environmental protections introduced in Britain during four decades of EU membership.
Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said the proposed bill “gives sweeping powers to the executive” and lacks “rigorous safeguards” on their abuse.
The government insists executive powers will be time-limited and will only be used to make “mechanical changes” so laws can be applied smoothly. It says it is trying to balance “the need for scrutiny and the need for speed.”
Simon James, a partner at the international law firm Clifford Chance, says the reality is that Parliament doesn’t have the capacity to review all EU law and make necessary changes over the next two years and any attempt to do so “would be doomed to failure.”
“The task involves more than the application of a blue pencil to minor elements of EU legislation in order to excise a few words here and there or to substitute U.K. institutions for EU ones,” he wrote in a briefing paper. “It will entail immediate policy choices as to what EU law should continue to apply in post-Brexit Britain and, if it should, how it needs to be changed in order to work effectively.”
All of this means the government faces a “unique challenge” that is complicated by the “scale and complexity of the task,” as well the fact that some decisions will be dependent on the result of Britain’s negotiations with the EU, the House of Lords said in a report published earlier this month.
Even so, the Lords argued that Parliament should limit the scope of any delegated powers so that the government can’t use the process to decide which laws it wants to keep and which ones it wants to discard.
“There is a question of who is going to get the power,” said Sunwinder Mann, a partner at the firm of Baker McKenzie. “This moment is going to bring about the most fundamental constitutional change since the European Communities Act in 1972. … There is a lot of uncertainty to what this means.”