Bernard Hughes: Brexit - It Is Very Early Days, But There Is Movement

The Prime Minister has made it clear that the UK will invoke Article 50 before the end of March 2017. A “Great Repeal Bill” will be included in next year’s Queen’s Speech. The legislation will revoke the 1972 European Communities Act that took Britain into the EU and gives its laws effect in the UK. The Prime Minister wants the bill to incorporate all EU law implemented into British law. The government can then repeal the EU legislation and regulations that it opposes further down the line and do that at a time that suits the government’s own political cycle.

The House of Commons and House of Lords will be allowed to vote on the repeal of the ECA – which will require skilful management given the Prime Minister has a majority of 12. Some disquiet has been expressed about how much power the repeal process will give to ministers. The government has said the bill “will include powers for ministers to make some changes by secondary legislation, giving the government the flexibility to take account of the negotiations as they proceed”.

There is still a considerable way to go before we know detail of the government’s thinking on the interface between Brexit and issues of fundamental rights, faith and religious freedom .  It is clear, however, that the Prime Minister has a personal understanding of the importance of faith in society. It is also clear that the government has commitments in its 2015 Conservative manifesto on vital issues to our community. On shechita, the government is very clear: “So while we will always make sure the Food Standards Agency properly regulates the slaughter of livestock and poultry, we will protect methods of religious slaughter, such as shechita and halal”.

Britain is facing a seismic shift in public policy and there are still unknowns. The volatility in Sterling versus other currencies is something we can see happening already.  Talk of Global Britain opens up possibility of a new bilateral trade deal with Israel.  But what are the next steps?

The community can take comfort from knowing that we have a government that believes in religious freedom and the value of faith in society. We have a government that has said it will only repeal those laws that it does not like.  It is not year zero for policy making but it is still early days. In the months and probably years ahead we will continue to watch developments on Brexit very closely and work with our communal colleagues to ensure our voice is heard and listened to.