PM under pressure as Brexit bill branded ‘flawed’

An influential group of peers have demanded changes to Theresa May’s flagship Brexit legislation a day before the House of Lords is due to begin debating it.

In a damning report, the House of Lords Constitution Committee has said that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill has “fundamental flaws” in multiple ways and will need to be substantially rewritten.

“We acknowledge the scale, challenge and unprecedented nature of the task of converting existing EU law into UK law, but as it stands this bill is constitutionally unacceptable,” committee chairwoman Baroness Taylor of Bolton said.

Video: The debate: Will there be blood on the floor of the Lords this week?

The Government wants the bill to transpose rules and regulations from Brussels into domestic law in time for Brexit.

But the group of peers said the task was complicated not only by its “scale and complexity” but also because “in many areas the final shape of that law will depend on the outcome of the UK’s negotiations with the EU”.

They added: “We conclude that the bill risks fundamentally undermining legal certainty in a number of ways.”

The method proposed to create a new category of “retained EU law” will cause “problematic uncertainties and ambiguities.”

A Department for Exiting the European Union spokesman said the report would be “considered carefully”.

It added: “From the beginning we have been committed to working collaboratively with Parliamentarians to improve the Bill wherever possible. We will continue to do so in the Lords.”

Video: PM accused of ‘diluting’ Brexit deal

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May is facing increasingly vocal complaints from Leavers and Remainers.

Eurosceptic former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers said she was worried about a “dilution of Brexit” while Remainer Heidi Allen told the PM to “get a grip” because the Tories are “letting this country down”.

A weekend of Tory infighting worsened after the Telegraph obtained a WhatsApp message sent by energy minister Claire Perry in which she described Brexiteers concerned about the £39bn EU divorce bill as “swivel-eyed” elderly men with no mortgages or young children.

There were calls for Mrs May to sack Chancellor Philip Hammond, who enraged Brexiteers by saying trade relations with the EU would change only “very modestly” and that the UK should seek a “middle way”.

Video: The debate: Will there be blood on the floor of the Lords this week?

It comes as the EU General Affairs Council is expected today to approve guidelines for chief negotiator Michel Barnier to follow during talks on a post-Brexit transition period.

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The basic principles are likely to be that Britain must follow “the whole of the EU acquis”, or law, but no longer participate in the institutions and decision-making of the bloc, while complying with European Court of Justice rulings and paying into the budget.

The Government has already indicated it is willing to comply with most of the EU’s demands to secure an “implementation period” of about two years after withdrawal in March 2019 to make life easier for businesses, but to the consternation of Brexiteers.

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