The government has set itself on a collision course with opposition parties by insisting that it will not bring the EU charter of fundamental rights into domestic law on Brexit day.
The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has made the incorporation of the charter – which interprets EU human rights – one of the six tests he will apply when Labour decides whether to vote for the bill when it returns to parliament in the autumn. The Liberal Democrats have also made it a key demand.
The government believes the charter, which interprets existing EU rights rather than creating new ones, will no longer be necessary after “exit day”, when Britain leaves the EU. But refusing to incorporate it will set up one of a series of parliamentary struggles as Theresa May tries to get the legislation through parliament.
The Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, who has said the passage of the bill in the autumn will be “hell” for the government, said: “The charter of fundamental rights is a cornerstone of what makes Britain what we are. I cannot understand what issue the government have with it. Is it the right to life, the ban on torture, protection against slavery, the right to a fair trial, respect for privacy, freedom of thought and religion, free speech and peaceful protest? These are not frustrations, these are integral to what it is to be British.”
The first and most historically significant line of the bill says simply: “The European Communities Act 1972 is repealed on exit day.” But the legislation also brings EU law into domestic UK law, to create continuity after exit day. And it contains controversial new powers for ministers to tweak laws and create new institutions, where these are deemed necessary to make EU law work when it is transferred to UK law.
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