Theresa May ‘profoundly misleading’ over Brexit legal changes, expert warns

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By CJ McKinney on

Cambridge law professor Mark Elliott isn’t happy with the PM

A top law professor has rounded on Theresa May over her claims about the EU Withdrawal Bill being debated by lawmakers this week.

Professor Mark Elliott, a public law expert and blogger, told Twitter followers yesterday that the Prime Minister had given a “highly selective & profoundly misleading” description of the influential Constitution Committee’s take on the bill.

The draft law will copy and paste thousands of pieces of EU legislation onto the UK statute book, in order to prevent a legal vacuum after we leave the bloc. May told MPs:

We will require certain powers to make corrections to the statute book after the bill has become law, because the negotiations are ongoing. We will do that via secondary legislation, which will receive parliamentary scrutiny—the approach has been endorsed by the House of Lords Constitution Committee.

But Elliott pointed out that the committee’s report on so-called ‘Henry VIII powers’ — named after the Tudor monarch with a penchant for beheading wives and legislating without parliament — did no such thing.

It’s widely accepted that ministers will need to have some sort of power to tweak all the EU laws being kept so that they make sense after Brexit — by removing references to the powers of EU agencies, for example.

Cambridge professor Elliott, who runs a blog containing advice for law students, concluded that the committee “has certainly not ‘endorsed’ the approach in the bill”.

The official Cambridge Law Faculty account approvingly shared his point, as did many influential legal Twitterati such as Adam Wagner of One Crown Office Row and Jo Maugham QC of Devereux Chambers.

Elliott is also legal adviser to the Lords Constitution Committee, but stressed to Legal Cheek that he was tweeting in a personal capacity. Nevertheless, the House of Lords itself got in on the action this morning, with a press release repeating the charge that the committee report had been “selectively quoted”. Constitution Committee chairman Ann Taylor said that “we are disappointed that we have not only been misquoted by the government, but that our key recommendations have been ignored”.

MPs are expected to begin the second reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 around lunchtime today. No doubt Professor Elliott will be keeping a close eye on them.

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