Theresa May’s failure to win a commanding majority in last month’s election sparked overexcitable speculation as to whether Britain’s departure from the European Union would not happen. The post-election policy changes made by the Prime Minister to convince the Democratic Unionist Party to support her party prompted the Independent to wonder if Brexit would be her next U-turn. She has now sought to knock that idea on the head today by making clear she intends to stay to get the job done.
Asked at the G20 summit in Hamburg whether other world leaders are convinced she will still be there “in a year or two’s time”, Mrs May replied: “Yes. We will be playing our absolutely full part and I’ll be playing my full part and the issues that we are discussing are important.” As a display of Britain’s continued influence on the world stage, the Prime Minister told Channel 4 News that that the other 19 leaders at the summit will be “listening.. taking us seriously..and working with us”. Philip Hammond, who flew with her to the summit, urged colleagues to rally behind her – even if his call for the “closest possible arrangement” with the EU jars with her stated plan to leave the European Single Market and the Customs Union. “We should stop navel-gazing and get on with the job in hand, deliver Brexit, get the very best deal we can for Britain,” the Chancellor said.
Good intentions aren’t enough to ensure a smooth Brexit though, as a range of legislation has to be passed to ensure Britain is ready for life outside of the European Union. The Great Repeal Bill (now known as just the Repeal Bill) starts its journey through Parliament next week. Despite its name, its purpose is to ensure legislative continuity, translating all EU laws onto the British statute books once Britain leaves, so that ministers can then cut unnecessary laws as they see fit. However, pro-Remain MPs are poised to use its passage as a chance to flex their muscle, with a Liberal Democrat aide telling Buzzfeed that “they’re going to string it up like a f***ing Christmas tree with amendments”.
Scores of Labour MPs want a “soft Brexit”, with Britain staying in the Single Market and Customs Union, but I’ve noted online that their party takes a more Eurosceptic viewpoint. This “two way facing” approach (as one Labour MP described it to my colleague Christopher Hope in his latest podcast) will likely leave Michel Barnier confused when he meets Jeremy Corbyn next week to talk about Brexit. Labour may feel freer to hold up the Repeal Bill in the Lords, as peers will not have any Brexit-backing constituents to worry about angering, but their chief Brexit spokesman Baroness Hayter has suggested that the party will ultimately support the Government on it. That will be a relief for Mrs May, but it doesn’t mean the job she has to do will be an easy one.
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