Brexit Secretary David Davis unveiled the Great Repeal Bill White Paper to the House of Commons on Thursday 30 March, with a claim that the draft legislation would provide businesses, workers and consumers with certainty after the UK splits from the EU.
The document comes just a day after Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and started the two-year-long Brexit talks. The Great Repeal Bill is designed so that all EU law is converted into UK legislation so that Parliament can amend, build on or repeal the rules.
"At the heart of the referendum decision was sovereignty. A strong, independent country needs control of its own laws. That process starts now," Davis said.
"Converting EU law into UK law, and ending the supremacy of lawmakers in Brussels, is an important step in giving businesses, workers and consumers the certainty they need.
"And it will mean that as we seek a comprehensive new economic partnership with the EU, our allies will know that we start from a position where we have the same standards and rules."
But the Brexit Secretary's announcement came amid fears that the bill could give the government "sweeping powers" since up to 1,000 statutory instruments – executive orders – may need to be passed to "correct" EU law.
The Hansard Society has also highlighted the use of so-called "Henry VIII clauses" or delegated legislation, which enables acts of Parliament to be scrapped or amended without going through the normal process and scrutiny of tabling new laws.
"Theresa May and her ministers are resembling a medieval court more and more every single day. This shameless power grab under the cloak of secondary legislation would have made Henry VIII blush," said Liberal Democrat chief whip Tom Brake MP.
"If needed, we will grind the government's agenda to a standstill, unless proper and rigorous safeguards are given over the Great Repeal Bill. The ball is now in the prime minister's court.
"Liberal Democrats will fight to maintain the high standards for the environment, health, safety, consumer protection, employment and equalities that the UK currently adheres to as an EU member. Nobody voted to diminish their rights, make themselves poorer or to make their country less safe."
Theresa May's forward to the Great Repeal Bill White Paper
The Government's first objective as we negotiate a new deep and special partnership with the European Union is to provide business, the public sector, and everybody in our country with as much certainty as possible as we move through the process.
This clarity will help people to plan effectively, recruit appropriately and invest as necessary while the negotiations continue and the new partnership we will enjoy with the European Union is being formed.
We have already been able to provide some clarity and reassurance in certain sectors. For example, last year the government acted quickly to give certainty about farm payments and university funding.
And we have also pledged to put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force. Our decision to convert the ''acquis'' – the body of European legislation – into UK law at the moment we repeal the European Communities Act is an essential part of this plan. This approach will provide maximum certainty as we leave the EU. The same rules and laws will apply on the day after exit as on the day before.
It will then be for democratically elected representatives in the UK to decide on any changes to that law, after full scrutiny and proper debate. This White Paper explains how we will legislate for this approach by introducing a Great Repeal Bill at the start of the next parliamentary session.
This Bill will, wherever practical and appropriate, convert EU law into UK law from the day we leave so that we can make the right decisions in the national interest at a time that we choose. The Great Repeal Bill is an important part of our plan to deliver a smooth and orderly Brexit that commands the confidence of all. The task ahead may be significant, but I am confident we can make it a success. This White Paper is an essential step along the way.