Brexit: Making Amends
The Brexit Secretary David Davis has infuriated Tory MPs after he said that MPs will only have a “take it or leave it” vote on the final Brexit deal. This comes at a crucial moment when MPs resume their debate on the UK Withdrawal Bill today, with many Tory MPs expressing their frustration about the bill.
Yesterday, Conservative chief whip Julian Smith had a meeting with MPs, during which it emerged that many backbenchers were dissatisfied with the Withdrawal bill. Tory rebels are considering voting against the government because of Davis’ statement that MPs won’t have much of a say on the final deal and would be difficult by that time to renegotiate it. Anna Soubry, one of the leading Tory pro-European MPs, said that many MPs were particularly angry about Theresa May’s announcement that a clause will be inserted in the bill saying that the UK would have to leave the EU by 29 March 2019, no matter what. Tory rebels find this anathema, and want a vote that would force Theresa May’s government to return to the negotiation stage.
But when Davis, ahead of the debate on the Withdrawal bill, promised to introduce legislation that would allow MPs to vote on the final Brexit deal, this was just a vacuous gesture, since it would only allow them to reject or accept the deal, or, even worse, leave the EU with no deal at all. One of the amendments to the bill, tabled by former attorney Dominic Grieve, refers to MPs having a meaningful vote on the final deal, something that Davis’ proposal ignores.
Davis and the government’s position suggest that they are heading for a hard Brexit. MP Anna Soubry told the Guardian that the government was indeed “preparing for a hard Brexit – no deal,” and insisted that she would rebel against Davis’ proposal of “take it or leave it.”
Labour also called the government to delete May’s new amendment on leaving the EU on 29 March 2019. Sir Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, explained that May’s “gimmick” amendment about exit date would “stand in the way of an orderly transition.” Starmer said: “The Government’s amendments to their own Bill would stand in the way of an orderly transition and increase the chance of Britain crashing out of Europe without an agreement.” He also urged May to stop “pandering to the ‘no deal’ enthusiasts in her own party and withdraw these amendments.”
EU Withdrawal Bill
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill repeals the European Communities Act 1972 (ECA) on the day of Britain’s exit from the EU. This means that EU law will be converted into domestic law, while, at the same time, creating temporary powers to make secondary legislation to correct laws accordingly, so the legal system of the UK continues to function correctly. This has been strongly debated by Labour and other parties, because these powers, called Henry VIII powers, would constitute a “power grab” by ministers, who would rewrite laws without consulting parliament.
MPs have begun this afternoon the first of eight stage debates for the bill. They will make changes, and there is the possibility of the government making concessions due to its small size in order to prevent defeat.
Today’s discussions will focus on a four-hour debate of the amendments related to the repeal of the European Communities Act. MPs will debate the new amendment regarding the UK’s exit from the EU at 11pm on 29 March 2019. Despite MPs’ disagreement with this proposal, the government has, at least, managed to convey the country’s insistence on punctuality. Even in such difficult times, exiting the EU should be done in a timely and orderly manner. MPs won’t be voting on this today, but at a later stage. It is said, that Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Cabinet, together with Tory Remainers will try and oppose the amendment.
After voting, MPs will enjoy another four-hour debate on amendments relating to the interpretation of EU law that would be retained. MPs are expected to vote at 7pm and 11pm.
With more than 186 pages of around 470 tabled amendments, MPs are going to debate and fight against a hard Brexit, hoping to see their changes to the bill before Christmas.