Customs Union
Customs Union

In this Brexit update I will discuss the latest on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and my attempt to keep the option of the Customs Union on the table for the Brexit negotiations.

Last week the House of Commons debated the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. The Government went into the debate explicitly stating that the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights would not be converted into UK law before we leave the EU. My colleagues and I disagreed with this approach and believe that all relevant and substantial rights in the Charter should be converted into domestic law before we leave. Indeed, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has lobbied for the charter’s inclusion in UK law, saying it protects certain rights, including those specifically for older people and children.

To that end Conservative MP and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve tabled an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill which would retain the EU Charter. This Government, facing defeat in the House, backed down and will now look to table its own amendment later in the process which will in effect retain the Charter. This was a significant concession and should be welcomed. There is also hope that the Government’s ludicrous amendment which would enshrine the leaving date of 29 March 2019 at 11pm into law will also be dropped. This would leave the UK with no flexibility at all should we require an additional day, week, or month to get the optimal deal.

Last week I used a rather unusual parliamentary procedure to table an amendment to a Ways and Means motion on the Government’s Customs Bill. You can read more about it here, but this was designed to leave the option of the Customs Union on the table for the negotiations. You can watch my full speech in the debate below:

The Government keep saying they want ‘free and frictionless trade’ and ‘no hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland’ and expect us to take these platitudes at face value. The fact remains that the only way to secure both of the above objectives is the Customs Union and the Single Market.

Unfortunately, despite attracting support from MPs from six different parties my amendment failed by 311-76. I expected the Government to vote against my amendment as they seem intent on pursuing a hard or no-deal Brexit. However, I was disappointed that members of my own front bench also trooped through the lobbies with David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

What happens next?

The Bill will next be considered on Monday 4 December (Day 4), Wednesday 6 December (Day 5), Tuesday 12 December (Day 6), and Wednesday 13 December (Day 7) with the conclusion of consideration in Committee taking place on Wednesday 20 December (Day 8).

I will continue to fight for the Single Market and the Customs Union as I believe that leaving these mechanisms will have a detrimental effect on you, and my constituents more broadly. I will of course also continue to keep you updated on any Brexit issues from Parliament.

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