…As Israel set to reopen Gaza crossing after week of calm on border***
Theresa May and the government would face a race against time to pass a slew of new laws, or risk creating an “unsustainable legal vacuum”, if Britain plunged out of the EU without a deal, Labour’s Keir Starmer has warned.
Dominic Raab insisted last week that the government had the legislation in place to cope, if Britain is forced to leave in March 2019 without a withdrawal agreement.
“Our laws will be on the statute book, the staff will be in place, the teams will be in post and our institutions will be ready for Brexit – deal, or no deal,” the Brexit secretary said.
But Labour’s analysis suggests new legislation would have to be passed hastily in four key policy areas:
EU citizens’ rights.
Immigration rules for EU travellers entering Britain.
Criminals held under the European arrest warrant.
The Irish border.
The government has long promised an immigration bill – but has not yet even published a white paper.
The home affairs select committee warned recently that “if there’s no deal, [the immigration system] is going to be completely chaotic as no one will know what the arrangements will be until the very last minute and there is going to be no time for anyone to plan at all”.
Several new regulators or other public bodies would also have to be created, including in medicines and aviation, Labour claims. The withdrawal bill gives ministers some powers to do this, but they are tightly curtailed.
Starmer described last week’s release of 24 technical notices on how the government is preparing for a no deal as a “poorly executed PR stunt designed to convince Tory MPs to back the prime minister’s discredited Chequers proposal”.
He said the government has “barely scratched the surface” of what would need to be done to prepare the UK for a no-deal scenario, and there was a serious risk of an “unsustainable legal vacuum”.
The withdrawal agreement with the EU is intended to allow for most existing laws and institutions to remain in place during a transitional period of almost two years, while the government negotiates the details of its future trading relationship with the EU.
But if talks break down – or MPs reject the deal – it is unclear what would happen next. Given the March deadline created by triggering article 50, one possibility is that Britain could end up leaving without any agreement in place.
Joe Owen, of thinktank the Institute for Government, said that in theory parliament could pass legislation rapidly in an emergency; but it is unclear whether MPs would cooperate. “Parliament could hold it up, if it wanted to,” he said. “Whichever avenue you go down, there’s going to be a bunfight in parliament.”
Hardline Brexiters on the Conservative backbenches are keen to play down the risks of a no-deal outcome, with some believing it would be preferable to the Chequers position, with its “common rulebook” and single market for goods.
They reacted angrily to chancellor Philip Hammond’s decision to release a letter last week highlighting Treasury forecasts that the hit to GDP under a no-deal scenario could be £80bn.
Former Brexit secretary David Davis used an article in the Sun on Sunday to urge the public to “ignore the misery merchants of the Treasury, stop fearing things that will never happen, and start planning for the real opportunities that this great country can grasp when it sets its mind to it”.
With another week to go before MPs return to Westminster from their long summer recess, campaign groups on both sides of the Brexit divide are gearing up to try to influence the outcome of what promises to be a tense six months.
People’s Vote, a cross-party pressure group that hopes to secure a referendum on the final Brexit deal, is urging its members not to attack the Labour leadership, as they seek to secure a vote at the party’s conference on the issue.
In a leaked memo seen by the Guardian, its director of communications, Tom Baldwin, says: “This campaign is not about Jeremy Corbyn and we must not – will not – use it to damage or undermine the party’s leadership or attack them personally.”
Baldwin also seeks to shut down recent rumours that the People’s Vote campaign could be used as a vehicle for a breakaway group of Labour MPs to form a new political party.
In the meantime, Israel’s defense minister has announced he will reopen the country’s main personnel crossing with the Gaza Strip following a week of relative calm along the border.
Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that after consultation with the country’s security agencies, he ordered the opening of the Erez border crossing on Monday.
The decision to reopen the crossing comes amid efforts by Egypt to mediate a possible ceasefire between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel following weeks of intense violence at the border.
The sides have come close to serious conflict in recent weeks, as militants have fired rockets at Israel, which responded with airstrikes.
Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and doesn’t recognize Israel, seeks an easing of the decade-long, crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the Palestinian territory in exchange for a lasting truce.
Guardian UK with additional report from ABC