Theresa May’s pledge to transpose all European Union Law into UK legislation is turning out to be a logistical nightmare for civil servants charged with carrying out the task.
May announced her plan to enshrine all EU law that currently impacts the UK into domestic legislation at the Tory conference in September. Dubbed the “Great Repeal Bill,” May said the act will help make Brexit a smoother process.
However, lawyers working for the government are overwhelmed by the size of the task, The Times reports, with multiple legal experts warning that the prime minister’s plan was short-sighted and extremely difficult to execute.
An unnamed legal source with vast experience of putting together legislation said that the Department for Exiting the European Union, headed by MP David Davis, had the “wrong seniority, the wrong levels of experience, the wrong skillset” to carry out the bill. He added that the department does not have “the faintest clue” what it is doing.
This development comes just a week after a new report by the Institute for Government accused the government of being “chaotic and dysfunctional” when it comes to Brexit planning. One part of the independent group’s report claimed that the sheer workload of delivering Brexit presents an “existential crisis” to some Whitehall departments.
Legal experts across the civil service are being forced to study tens of thousands of pages of EU law dating back over four decades, according to The Times. This is estimated to include over 40,000 legal acts, 15,000 court verdicts, and 62,000 international standards. This means that there could be over 120,000 pieces of EU law that require either amendment or total transposition. The task is absolutely mammoth.
“You can’t just take the whole of EU law and plonk it into the UK legal system because so much of what the EU does is inherently cross border in nature,” the University of Liverpool’s Michael Dougan said.
“Once you have left the EU that doesn’t make sense any more. It would be rather preposterous to leave the EU and still give full legal recognition to thousands of foreign decision-making bodies.”
What makes life even more difficult for civil servants is that they are expected to deliver the incredibly complex process of taking Britain out of the European Union while also carrying out their usual tasks relating to domestic policy. This is an issue the Institute for Government’s report raises. It says:
“What Whitehall does not have is the capacity to deliver Brexit on top of everything else to which it is already committed. The work required to deliver Brexit has been described to us as an existential threat to how some departments operate. Managing this whilst continuing to deliver existing priorities with the smallest Civil Service in decades is unsustainable.”
Responding to these claims, a spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU said: “The approach the prime minister and secretary of state have set out is straightforward. The Great Repeal Bill will convert EU law into UK law wherever practical, providing maximum certainty and stability.”
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