Recently MPs voted on whether to allow the Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill to progress to committee stage. The Government won the vote narrowly by 326 votes to 290.
The Bill, as currently constituted, grants Government ministers massive power over vast swathes of policy through Statutory Instruments. Statutory Instruments are a form of legislation which allows the provisions of an Act of Parliament to be subsequently brought into force or altered without Parliament’s consent. This means the Government would have complete control over consumer rights; workers’ rights; external trade; competition; financial and banking services; telecommunications and data protection; fisheries and agriculture; EU standards agencies; cooperation in matters of security and the criminal law; and the environment.
For a more comprehensive look at what these powers mean for our democracy, you can watch my colleague, Keir Starmer MP, from the despatch box last week: https://goo.gl/tTh8ip
I, of course, voted against the Bill. The Bill is an affront to parliamentary democracy and a naked power grab by Government ministers. It leaves rights unprotected, it silences parliament on key decisions and undermines the devolution settlement.
Indeed, I raised this point with David Davis last week in the debate:
I also voted against the Programme Motion which is a Government mechanism for scheduling time for debate. They have restricted the time Parliament can scrutinise and attempt to amend this controversial legislation to just 8 days. The campaign to leave the EU used the slogan ‘take back control’. This Bill is clearly taking back control only to give power straight to Government ministers, at the expense of our sovereign parliament.
It is important to remember that many on the Conservative side are highly critical of the Bill too. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP referred to the current Bill as a ‘monstrosity’. I therefore hope that pressure from both sides of the House will force the Government to make concessions as the Bill continues its passage through the Commons.
We have recently had the Prime Minister deliver her keenly anticipated Florence Speech which was supposed to outline what the Government wanted for our post-Brexit relationship with the EU. The speech ended up being a damp squib with no detail being given on the future relationship. The Prime Minister did finally commit a 2 year transition period where the status quo will be maintained. This is the very minimum required to avert a cliff edge when we leave the EU and the PM has much more to do if she wants to avoid serious damage to the UK economy.
Perhaps more important than the content of the speech was the context in which it was given. Boris Johnson’s 4,000 word essay in The Times newspaper was designed to push the PM into taking up more extreme positions in her Florence speech.
We now have a Prime Minister who is too weak to exert control over her cabinet and the direction of the Brexit talks, flanked by a Foreign Secretary who is publicly trying to strong arm the Government to further his own leadership ambitions. Strong and Stable?
Closer to home your local Labour team have organised a series of public meetings- including one on the Brexit process. The meeting was a huge success with over 80 people attending.