Cable on Brexit Bill

Vince Cable was on Radio 4 this morning – jump to 2 hours 48 minutes – on the subject of the bill to incorporate EU law into domestic law.

Vince highlights two elements: the way the government is using this bill to usurp the powers of parliament. And the issue of staying in the single market and customs union.

I’m going to expand on the first of these. The government’s position is that it must pull out of the single market and ECJ for reasons of “the sovereignty of parliament”. It then says we can’t practically do that allowing parliament to scrutinise the necessary legislation, therefore it has to be done using Henry VIII powers, leaving Parliament with less power than we started.

We would have a more sovereign parliament staying in the single market and ECJ (or EFTA court).

This is particularly outrageous for a minority government to do: to use executive powers to make changes to legislation for which it would not have a majority in parliament.

Asked if he is working cross party on these issues, Vince says

This is an area that transcends ancient tribal party loyalties and we’ve got to be grown up about it.

The interview then moves on to the Brexit talks and the issue of whether to agree the principle of the “divorce settlement”, given the refusal of the EU negotiators to move on to trade talks until this and some other issues are settled.

For me, it is time the government stopped whining and mewling about this. If our position is as strong as the government and all the leavers have claimed it would be, then we can dictate the order of negotiations, and if it is not, they all need to abase themselves before us in grovelling apology, for having got the whole project so badly wrong. And for having weakened us further with the hasty triggering of Article 50 as I warned against.

Finally there’s the subject of the second referendum / first referendum on the deal. If the leavers can deliver half of what they promised, they have nothing to fear from this. From what I can see they don’t intend to deliver any of it.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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  • Steve Trevethan 5th Sep '17 - 12:20pm

    Following the referendum circumstances affecting the United Kingdom, the countries of which it is made up, especially Northern Ireland and Scotland, and “Europe” are changed.
    It seems sensible to work directly and indirectly to make the best of these changes for all parties.

    Assuming that this is a “Zero Sum” game when all could break even or even gain is inefficient There is room for improvement in the way “Europe” is run [Greece?] and the UK would benefit from careful consideration of its regional policies.
    [The poorest regions in the UK are the poorest in Northern Europe. ]

    The use of “either/or” speaking and thinking is inefficiently adversarial as in the use of analysis and opportunity blocking cliches such as “No deal is better than a bad deal.”

    The proportions of time allowed to different groups representing various parts of our nation are concerning. The greatly greater time given to “Big Business” might indicate that this is actually an exercise in disadvantaging the citizenry and their children. How much time have the banks had? Ditto “unions”?

    A referendum is a political tool and not a destination.

  • Vince got into a bit of a tangle over the re-running of the Brexit referendum demonstrating that it doesn’t matter how you dress it up; getting the voters to vote again is exactly that.

    Nick Clegg cleared up another matter on the previous day. Over the years I have often debated with others here about the influence of the EU on everyday life. Most people here told me that the legislation was negligible. Nick’s argument changed from one extreme to the other depending on his audience and the point he was trying to make.

    Yesterday he confirmed that EU legislation touches “every aspect of our lives.” Of course we all know that now, but strangely, that is the same phrase that I used to use here, to much derision from others.

    Well done, Nick, glad you now agree with me!

  • Bernard Aris 5th Sep '17 - 1:07pm

    This is, I’m sorry to bring up a “continental” (but very liberal) point, exactly the disadvantage of not having a written, parliamentary approved Constitution. Where a mass of acts stored in parliament don’t suffice, and there is no such constitution, people revert to feudal powers (what else are those “Henry VIII Powers” initiated by a king who decided about live and death even of his own wives?).
    Like dipping your feather pen in ink to answer emails…

    Whatever powers the Scandinavian, Benelux and Spanish monarchies have, they have all abadoned these kind of “king in parliament” powers (they still had some of those in the post-Napoleonic “Restauration Period”, 1815-’70).

    I propose that the LibDems, as part of “preparing Britain for Brexit” (if you frame it like that, you avoid being called sad/sore Remainer-losers again), propose having a Constitutional Convention writing a written constitution, so that the Trias Politica, without the feudal barnacles that even sank Henry VIII’s flagship Mary Rose (after 30 years of service; the Henry VIII powers lasted 5 centuries), gives everybody clearly defined competences about introducing-, proceeding with-, and amending a bill/law in parliament.
    These days everybody in government and in politics must have clearly defined competences, without magic tricks that look like they’re pulled from Tommy Cooper’s fez.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Sep '17 - 2:53pm

    Vince Cable was on the Daily Politics on BBC1 (and the I-Player) on 5/9/2017. More please.

  • Actions of my County Council plus District Council locally touches every aspect of my life! They are both Tory Councils – the District Tory since inception, the County more often than not, but I am not suddenly demanding a referendum on whether they be abolished, or my local town leave them. I might prefer to have a Unitary Council, but that would I believe combine efficiency with better overall responsiveness and joined up thinking, irrespective of party control. Surely we want democratic control at appropriate levels, depending on the topic – if, like many of our most pressing problems, they cross borders, then that control must be exerted at supranational level.

  • @Tim
    Where is the democratic control of the Commission?

  • Given the Home Office leaked paper I fear it will be a difficult night for any Brexiteer married to or friendly with an EU national. I suspect other hard conversations will become the Brexiteers norm.

    The problem with playing hard-ball is it invites them to play hard-ball with us, rather a problem if you have connections with the EU either family, friends, residency or property abroad. Thankfully not an issue for me but i suspect for many a Brexiteer it will be.

  • Peter
    Via the Council of Ministers (indirect democracy, of course), and via the Parliament. Yes, the “3 Pillars” (Parliament, Commission and Council) can be a bit complicated, but frankly all democracies with their “checks and balances” are. If the EU were genuinely a “superstate”, of course, you could do without the Council, which does frustrate the direct democracy, but again, there is ALWAYS tension between levels of democracy. You see it all the time between central and local government. Democratic systems are ALWAYS compromises, after all.

  • The S.S. Great Britain is in dire straits…. The last captain, who gave the passengers a vote on the ship’s course, has jumped ship and is playing ‘house’ in his garden shed…

    Those passengers who thought that it was the Captain and Officers who should have decided such matters are still trying to convince the new captain that it was a bad decision. Those who decided that any new course was better than the original are either going, ‘La,la, la”, with their fingers in their ears, or blaming every other ship in the flotilla….

    Meanwhile the new captain and her officers are busy altering the charts; rubbing out reefs and rocks and pretending that Unicorn Island is just over the horizon….

    Sorry about the analogy but I thought it made a change from “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.”

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Sep '17 - 7:27pm

    On the matter of contesting the decision-making by ‘Henry VIII powers’, I think we are on the same wavelength as the Labour Opposition. I am more interested on their apparent conversion to the importance of staying in the internal market and the customs union. As far as I can see, they only want that for the proposed ‘transition period’, which is a complete fudge, as what happens at the end? Well, clearly, we come out of both, and even David Davis has now conceded that that will mean customs posts to handle tariffs, in fact expense and bureaucratic delays without end for our manufacturers, and I don’t know what troubles for our vital services too.

    So surely we should make it plain that we want to stay in the internal market and the customs union for good, not just for a transition period. That we are entirely different from Labour on that – we actually want to stop Brexit. I know that means accepting the four freedoms, and our major task in the next 18 months, which is the only time we have got, is to convince the public that this great self-harm can and must be stopped, and that we will negotiate on freedom of movement to reach agreement, WITHIN the EU. Of course we need to keep promoting another referendum, for the public to make the final decision, as is our Manifesto promise.

  • @Rick
    You raise some good points but I suspect they will be ignored. I am becoming of the opinion that the party does not want power. It involves difficult decisions in the real world and these are not always compatible with party ideology. The party does not wish to repeat the experience of shared power.

    Rejecting the Brexit vote is where the party is most comfortable so that will remain as the key policy. Probably when Brexit is done and dusted the policy will become one of joining the EU.

  • Peter/Rick

    it matters not what we or even Labour come up with, the Brexit bus is being driven over the cliffs by the Tories. It is likely that barring a total melt down in the Tory party no other party will get it’s chance to alter the Brexit process before 2022. Saying Labour should do this or Liberals should do that is irrelevant they are not in a position to change the process. By the time they have the shape of Brexit will be set and all parties will have to deal with the situation. Does that mean we should go along with it, no it’s a stupid idea and signing up to it doesn’t make it less stupid.

  • Katharine
    I think there is already a divide opening up on Freedom of Movement, and the publication of a version of Govt proposals on future immigration policy will only accelerate that process. I think we have been far too coy and cautious to use the fact that many Brits have benefited from free movement of people, and that, yes, we will lose that as well if we keep going down this insane path. Looking at weather and climate patterns at present, we are going to be arguing for much larger scale movement of people than we are even now experiencing pretty soon now, so we’d pretty hurriedly all get used to it! If we want to change immigration patterns we have to restructure our economy. People out there are still believing the selective stuff they are fed by some in the press about immigrants “living on benefits” while “hardworking British people” can’t get them. To be honest, I can’t think of many worse reasons for leaving the EU than because of freedom of movement. Perhaps it’s the UK that will “have a Great Wall” rather than the USA. Perhaps we will have armed border guards with similar consequences to that mercifully disappeared wall (1961 – 1989).

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Sep '17 - 4:37pm

    Tim 13. You are right, Tim, we should be insisting on the benefits that free movement of people has brought to this country. At least it has become usual to hear that ‘the hospitality and care industries and agriculture’ really need their EU workers. (I used to be amused at one of the Tory parrot-cries, that only ‘the brightest and best’ will be welcome, wondering whether you have to find the ‘brightest and best’ pickers of the summer fruit and vegetable crops!) Another important plus point which we need to keep pointing out is the demographic one, that with our ageing population we need younger workers to come – and to settle and bring up families here. I realised that when it was reported here in West Cumbria that there was no possibility of enough local young people being available for our ‘Energy Coast’ (nuclear and other) proposed growth and development. Of course, younger workers will be paying taxes too, unlike some of our older people who may have outlived their savings.

    However I don’t underestimate the difficulties in convincing our people that the idea that all the future job vacancies can and should be filled by local people suitably trained by local employers and colleges is one of the Brexiteers’ fantasies. There will be lots of nods of approval of the leaked government draft of time limits for EU workers coming here.

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