Britain’s parliament debated the renamed EU Withdrawal Bill on Thursday, as a protest outside sought to highlight what many people say is a reversion to 15th century rule by royal fiat, with campaigners wearing Tudor costumes, one of them incarnating that most absolute of British monarchs, Henry VIII.
Parliamentarians are insisting on oversight and the right to amend any law, and not just let the government make laws on the hoof as they like in order to quit the EU.
“We’re saying ‘No’ to Brexit. Henry VIII laws will do us no good whatsoever. It’s not doing the economy any good whatsoever,” said one protester.
A noisy, if not full chamber, heard Brexit Minister David Davies explain how the bill would absorb EU laws into UK statutes, and why it was needed.
“This bill is an essential step. Whilst it does not take us out of the European Union, that’s a matter for the Article 50 process, it does ensure that on the day we leave businesses know where they stand, workers’ rights are upheld and consumers remain protected. This bill is vital to ensuring that as we leave we do so in an orderly manner,” he said.
Labour oppose the bill, as the opposition believes it will scrap EU laws on things like worker’s rights or environmental protection, EU legislation they believe is good for Britain.
“It’s an unprecedented power grab. Rule by decree is not a mis-description. It’s an affront to Parliament and to accountability. The name of this bill was changed from the Great Repeal Bill to the EU Withdrawal Bill.
The word ‘great’ should have been preserved but it should have been changed to the great power grab bill,” said Shadow Brexit Minister Sir Keir Starmer.
There will be one more day of debate after this, with a vote on Monday, when it is possible some pro-European Conservatives could side with the opposition, and vote against. That would take British politics into unknown