The Great Repeal Bill Headache

Brexit is going to be the Prime Ministers biggest headache for the next two years. But the single ray of hope is the thought of a successful exit from the EU and then marching triumphantly to the General Election with a united party behind you.

But could the Great Repeal Bill create the perfect conditions for party disunity and disgruntled backbenchers to seek to get their own back.

The Great Repeal Bill will ensure that all EU legislation passes into U.K. Law at the moment we exit the EU. This will allow Parliament to accept, amend or drop EU legislation they want. The Government want the bill passed before article 50 is invoked in March 2017.

Theresa May's rationale for the Bill is that it can offer some form of policy certainty for business and to start putting some meat on the 'Brexit means Brexit' bones.

But former Cabinet Secretary Lord O'Donnell offered some hypothetical advice to a future Conservative minority Government at an RSA event before the last General Election. To paraphrase his advice to Cameron, he said avoid any controversial legislation as much as possible. Unfortunately for Theresa May there is no legislation more controversial than EU legislation.

It is difficult to imagine that it will be as simple as just cherry picking what to keep and throw away. Plus with a majority of just 18, potentially disruptive backbenchers, SNP and Labour working together, and industry's continued calls for certainty as we enter the unknown, it really is going to be a legislative quagmire.

Don't be surprised to see outliers of this potential battle with the passing of the Great Repeal Bill later this year. Future battle lines between eurosceptic MPs and business may start to appear.

To give an example of a potential battle let's look at EU renewable targets. Eurosceptics have been chomping at the bit to get rid of these targets. While the renewables industry is still recovering from recent changes to Government support for their sector.

If Eurosceptics sniff any opposition or reneging on issues such as renewable targets they will start to get angry and may even have two years to stew on the issue. Equally business will have two years to make the case for certain EU policies to be maintained.

Fundamentally, it will come down to an issue of party management and the outcome of Brexit. If Theresa May is sitting atop a party that is euphoric over Brexit than it may be a little easier to handle. But if party divisions have come to the fore, both internal and external enemies of the PM may see this an opportunity to wound or even, in a drastic turn of events, take her out of Number 10 ahead of a General Election.

Brexit will undoubtedly be a headache but it could turn into a migraine once we leave.

By Doug McIlroy

Chris Pratt

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search