Through the Bill, our UK Parliament will regain authority over whether and how EU law will apply, and that is what honouring the result of the EU referendum is all about.
This Bill is necessary to ensure an orderly Brexit. The alternative does not bear thinking about. It is chaos, uncertainty and the abrupt evaporation of laws overnight, leaving us with nothing but a legal vacuum on the day after we have left the EU. That is what those who oppose the Bill are asking for, which is why I urge Labour Members to reconsider their position in opposition to the Bill and to vote for the pragmatism and necessity that it encapsulates.
A vote against the Bill is a vote in breach of voters’ trust and a vote for chaos for two reasons. First, the fact that the Bill has the effect of placing all current EU law into UK law is eminently sensible. Many of the laws will work in UK law without amendment, but some will need to be amended. There has been much criticism of the Henry VIII powers, but it is exaggerated and unjustified. The Hansard Society has calculated that of the 23 Government Bills in the 2015-16 parliamentary Session, 16 contained a total of 96 Henry VIII powers to amend or repeal primary legislation. Of those powers, 65 were included in Bills when they were introduced, and a further 31 were added to Bills during their progress through Parliament. There is therefore nothing alien or sinister about such powers, and to suggest otherwise is unjustified and disproportionate.
The Opposition have proposed no alternative. If there were individual votes to amend the EU laws, that would mean an individual vote on all 20,000 EU laws. If we conducted the process in that way, it would take over 200 days of parliamentary time, sitting 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An alternative would be to have a debate on every page of the law, but that would mean debates on over 600,000 pages of law. That leaves us with the only option of abandoning all EU law, which, as I have said, would mean legal chaos.
Secondly, the Bill is important because it repeals the European Communities Act 1972, which gives force to judgments from the European Court of Justice and regulations without any further need for scrutiny by Parliament. That is the biggest power grab to which this country has been subject. Politics should be less about mechanistic procedure and more about the big vision; less about systematic management and more about creating on a grand scale with radical thinking, setting a blueprint for society. Brexit is a birth and a chance for a new beginning, not a death. Now there is a chance for those who campaigned to leave the EU and those who see the opportunity ahead, even if they did not campaign for it, to unite in painting that bold and bright vision of the future of our country and of the world. For those who cannot or will not see that, the politics of yesterday may be good enough for them, but not for me.