Constituents have recently been in touch about the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the “Repeal Bill”.
Firstly, I want to emphasise that this Bill is not about whether Britain leaves the EU. That issue was settled by the referendum result and the Article 50 Bill.
The Labour Party has been very clear that we respect the referendum result and recognise that Britain is leaving the EU.
Instead, this Bill is about how we leave the EU, what role Parliament has in the process and how we safeguard vital rights and protections as we leave.
I believe that Brexit must not lead to any drop in rights and protections – including workplace rights, consumer rights, human rights and environmental standards – and that power should be brought back to Parliament and local communities.
The Government’s Bill, however, would do precisely the opposite. It would put huge and unaccountable power into the hands of Government Ministers – including the power to decide the key terms of our exit from the EU – it would side-line Parliament on major decisions and put crucial rights and protections at risk. Far from bringing back control to Parliament, it would result in a power-grab for the Government.
The Bill would also undermine and introduce restrictions on the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, rather than leading to the wider devolution of power we need to see to communities across the UK.
Crucially, the Bill could also prevent Britain from being able to negotiate a strong transitional deal on the same basic terms we currently enjoy, which is vital if we are to prevent a cliff-edge for the economy as we leave the EU.
That is why I did not support this Bill in its current form. It would cause lasting damage to the role and power Parliament of and it would do nothing to help deliver the Brexit deal we need – one that puts jobs and the economy first and maintains rights and protections. It would also give a blank cheque to the Government to change whichever laws they please.
Labour has repeatedly raised these concerns with the Government but they have been utterly inflexible and unwilling to engage constructively. Our aim has always been to repair this Bill, not wreck it.
It was disappointing that the Government did not listen to our reasonable and constructive concerns before the Commons votes on the Bill this week. It was possible for there to be a consensus on this important issue and for a much better Bill to be introduced. However, their intransigence meant that I had no choice but to vote against this deeply flawed Bill at Second Reading. I also voted against the Programme Motion which limits debate to just 8 days.
Yesterday, Labour tabled our first group of amendments to Bill. These amendments seek to address the worst aspects of this deeply flawed Bill, including significantly limiting the use of delegated powers, returning devolved powers to the governments in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast and protecting vital workers’ rights, environment standards, human rights and equalities laws.
Our amendments would also ensure that Parliament, and not Ministers, has control of the terms and timing of any transitional arrangements.
I believe the Bill is so fundamentally flawed that it should have been scrapped and new legislation brought forward. Given the Bill has now passed Second Reading in the House of Commons, Labour will work constructively to improve the Bill wherever possible.