Everything is about Brexit, except Brexit, which is about power.
That much was clear from the Leave Campaign’s key message in 2016: Take Back Control.
What the Great Repeal Bill (published today) demonstrates is that taking back control is far more difficult than the slogan suggests. Ever since Britain joined the European Union the UK Parliament (and therefore UK law) has been subordinate to EU law. What the Repeal Bill is seeking to do is to “copy and paste” all European law which has affected Britain since 1973 onto the British statue book.
In repealing, reusing and recycling, the government is seeking to provide for both continuity and control.
Many opponents have cried that this is behaviour reminiscent of the infamous tyrant Henry VIII. In a sense it is – the Repeal Bill is using the so-called “Henry VIII clauses” to allow the government, rather than Parliament, to execute this process. Crucially this allows the government to make the ultimate decision as to which parts of EU law are kept, and those which are binned.
But before we declare this as another act of Maybotic tyranny, remember that this is a tactic which all parties have utilised in our post-war history: 170,000 statutory instruments have been created since 1950 (which are essentially executive orders from the government of the day). It was Tony Blair’s Labour government which legislated to expand these powers in the Legislative and Regulative Reform Act.
And so we’re back to the issue of Brexit. Those who will support this bill will be in favour of Leaving, and those who won’t are in favour of frustrating Brexit. It’s as simple as that.
But make no mistake: what all politicians are really interested in is power.