May moves beyond 'Brexit means Brexit' mantra

The Prime Minister will finally move beyond “Brexit means Brexit” with an explanation of how it will happen at some point in the future. 

In the absence of firm progress so far towards a successful Brexit, Theresa May will announce how Brexit will be achieved legally and constitutionally on the first day of the Conservative conference in Birmingham.

Her announcement of a “Great Repeal Bill” will see the 1972 European Communities Act repealed on the day the UK leaves the European Union. 

It will all still apply though. The laws will be repealed only in the sense they will, in their entirety, be incorporated into UK law. 

Theresa May is to make a major speech on Brexit at the Tory conference in Birmingham

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This will provide “maximum possible certainty” for the economy. 

The substance of this is that the jurisdiction of the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (a key bone of contention for Leave campaigners Boris Johnson and Michael Gove) will end over English law. The Supreme Court will be Supreme.

This would appear to sound the death knell for the idea that Britain will stay in the Single Market. It does not completely rule it out though.

What it does do undoubtedly though is underline the involvement of Parliament in the Brexit process. 

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith MP

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The Bill will have to pass through readings and votes in both the Commons and the Lords. The Lords are spoiling for a fight on this. The Commons has a large majority of Remain voters. 

Parliament will surely respect the decision of the referendum, but it could be delayed, and terms amended, given the Government’s small majority. 

It makes the already Byzantine negotiation between the UK, the EU-27, the European Commission, Parliament and the World Trade Organisation, also a simultaneous negotiation with MPs of all parties, Lords and crossbenchers. 

Then it gets very interesting. ECJ jurisdiction is hardwired into the devolution settlements of both Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is an open question as to whether legislative consent will be required at Holyrood (where it might not be given) and Stormont. 

John Redwood MP

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At the very least, it considerably strengthens the Remain nations’ hand in talks with the PM. At most it is a constitutional Pandora’s Box.

The announcement from the PM does not prejudge the timing of Article 50 at all. 

It is likely to be triggered before the Great Repeal Act becomes law. 

A court case will decide whether a separate Parliamentary vote is required before that trigger.

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Sky News understands that UK diplomats have had almost no cooperation from EU partners on scoping out the contours of any deal. Expectations are growing of “hard Brexit”.

So Theresa May and David Davis, not yet able to say the when or the what, have offered up the “how”. 

We have moved from “Brexit means Brexit” to “how Brexit will mean Brexit”.

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