Tag Archives: eu withdrawal bill

SNP stunt kills off chance of devolution debate

Well, I suppose a bit of drama at PMQs brightens up the day, but what exactly was the point of the SNP’s mass walkout and their leader depriving himself of a vote as one of the most crucial pieces of legislation ever to go through the Commons. Not only that, but he had an application in for an emergency debate on the devolution related issues that everyone except the Scottish Tories are livid about. That fell because he was no longer allowed to be there. Presumably the SNP decided that a walkout would get them more attention on the news than a 3 hour debate. It did, but when this news cycle is over, what have they actually achieved? The square root of bugger all, to be honest.

At the heart of all the fuss is the issue of what happens to powers that were enacted by the EU when/if we leave. There is no agreement between the two governments about what should come to Westminster and what should come to Holyrood. The Scottish people don’t seem to give two hoots either way, to be honest. However, the Scottish Parliament voted by a large majority (everyone except the Tories) for the Scottish Government’s Continuity Bill rather than give consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill. This means that the two Governments are not in agreement and the Tories think that the way to resolve that is for Westminster just to dictate what happens. That is simply not acceptable.

However, there isn’t likely to be a settlement that satisfies the SNP. Their prime motivation is to drive as many wedges as they can between the two Parliaments. The clue is in their name. Everything they do is about trying to get independence.

So today, Ian Blackford, the SNP leader, had a justified go at May at PMQs and then pulled one of the biggest diversionary Parliamentary stunts in the book – moving a procedural motion for Parliament to sit in private. That would have meant that the public galleries would have been emptied and that the broadcast would have been stopped, but only if MPs had voted for it. Speaker John Bercow decided to flambe the situation rather than calm it down. He was all over the place on the procedure. First of all he said that the vote should happen straight away. Then he said he was minded to have it at the end of PMQs. Then he gave the SNP a choice. They all said they wanted it there and then and he insisted it would happen later. If he had just held the vote in the middle of PMQs, the SNP would have lost it and normal service would have been restored. Instead, Bercow went over the top and threw Blackford out. I know I’m always saying that Bercow should be throwing people out, but not like this. I meant the people who jeer and behave like toddlers.

The result was that Bercow’s dithering gave the SNP much bigger headlines than they were expecting. The Speaker isn’t usually so ignorant of procedure. You might be forgiven for thinking that he knew exactly what he was doing. He certainly seemed quite chuffed with himself.

But this excitement will die down. And we’ll be no further forward.

Tim Farron has form for this sort of stuff and he thought they’d made a mistake:

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EU Withdrawal Bill: This isn’t over yet

Anyone feeling a bit jaded after today’s events in Parliament?

I mean, honestly, you have at the start of the day a very smug Arron Banks blithely telling anyone who would listen that Leave.EU “led people up the garden path” (that’s lied to you and I).

A few hours later, at the other side of the Parliamentary Estate, MPs fail to adequately hold the Government to account on their atrocious, democracy-undermining, devolution-busting disaster of an EU Withdrawal Bill.

The day had started quite promisingly with the resignation of a Government Minister who then proceeded to buy the Govenrment’s concession and abstained …

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More defeats for the Government on the Brexit deal – but does it matter?

Am I the only one not to be too excited about the Lords riding a coach and horses through the EU Withdrawal Bill?

Before I explain why, let’s look at how the Lords have improved this Bill. When I say improve, it is all relative. There are some things you really can’t polish.

The Government defeats have come thick and fast, with Lib Dem lords leading the way.

1 and 2 on 18th April: An amendment in favour of staying in the Customs Union and  another limiting Minister’s powers to water down our rights

3- 5 on 23rd April when they took out the bit that removed the references to the Charter of Fundmental rights and the bites that gave ministers and preserved the rights of citizens to use the principles of EU law to challenge the government

6-7 on 25th April when Lords restricted the so-called Henry VIII powers which gave Ministers the right to do what they pleased without much in the way of referral to Parliament.

8-10 on 30th April  passed two amendments which gave Parliament a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal, allowing Parliament to decide what happens if it rejects the deal. Peers also passed Lord Dubs’ amendment on reuniting refugee families

11 -14 Last night their Lordships decided to keep us in the single market, give greater scrutiny of Brexit proposals to Parliamentary Committees, give Parliament powers against ministers using statutory instruments and remove the date of exit from the EU from the Bill.

So the Bill is now something that Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Liam Fox have nightmares about. It’s less horrendous than it was, and it would be even more so if the Liberal Democrat amendment calling for a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal had been passed.

But if the Bill comes through the Commons in this form, I’ll be looking to borrow a hat from Paddy Ashdown.

Once the Lords is finished with it, MPs get to vote on whether they accept the Lords amendments or not. The Government may offer concessions which MPs accept, or they may simply strip the amendments out. This is where the natural majority in the Commons for staying in the customs union and the single market could show itself, or it might bide its time, waiting for the Brexit deal vote.

I won’t be holding my breath for MPs to write staying in the single market and customs union into the Bill. However, if I’m wrong, then the Government will either implode in a toxic cloud of frothing brexiteer bile or MPs will be back the next day and the PM will make it an issue of confidence just like John Major did over Maastrict. Actually both of these things could happen. It would be dramatic, that’s for sure. Although a vote of no confidence wouldn’t necessarily mean a general election with the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, the political environment would be very excitable, the markets would go nuts and rebel Tories might well end up backing down. Alternatively, the Tories could just go into screaming meltdown. If it wasn’t the future of our country at stake, it could be pretty thrilling to watch.

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Play-by-play account of last week’s defeat on the Withdrawal Bill

Last Wednesday (April 26th) The Government suffered its largest defeat so far on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.  This Cross Party amendment, led by Lord Tyler for the Lib Dems, which is now added to the Bill, raises the legal bar which Ministers must meet in order to exercise “Henry VIII” and other executive powers

The Government’s Bill previously read:

A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate to prevent, remedy or mitigate….. any failure or deficiency arising from the withdrawal of the united kingdom from the EU.

The amendment altered this to read:

A Minister

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From our Lords Correspondent: 18 April – Brexit rears its ugly head again…

The Lords return after their Easter Recess, and one can only hope that they’re well rested, because this week sees the debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill become properly serious, with Day 1 of the Report Stage scheduled for Wednesday.

And the battle will be joined immediately, with the very first amendment sponsored by four peers from each of the main groups in the Lords, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (Crossbenchers), Lord Patten of Barnes (Chris, not John, from the Conservatives), Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Labour) and our own Sarah Ludford.

The amendment is …

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Boris “a real embarrassment” says William Wallace

Our Lib Dem Peer and regular LDV contributor William Wallace is an Emeritus Professor in International Relations. He is more qualified than most people to comment on foreign policy. In the Lords debate on the EU Withdrawal on Monday, he was incredibly critical about the Foreign Secretary – and that was before Boris’s bizarre comparison of the congestion charge boundary to the Irish border after Brexit.

Here’s the whole of that speech:

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From our Lords Correspondent: 20-23 February – you might want to think about this… and this… and that…

Yes, the Lords was back after its usual February recess (think half-term but without the need for childminders), and ready to do battle with the EU Withdrawal Bill. Bearing in mind the agreement on all sides of the House that the intention was not to reject the Bill but to improve it, the Committee Stage has become a marker of the likely problems that will get a thorough airing over the coming weeks.

With three hundred and seventy-one amendments already tabled at the beginning of the week, it was clear that the Government’s …

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From our Lords correspondent: the Bill cometh, but will the building fall down before it can be passed?

And so, the EU Withdrawal Bill came to be debated in the Lords over two days. One hundred and eighty-seven speakers, all heard courteously enough but, at the end of it, it was just the hors d’oeuvres before the real work on the Bill begins.

It seemed to be broadly accepted accepted across the Chamber that the House of Lords does not see its role as stopping Brexit – the lack of an electoral mandate hangs heavy on all corners – and as Dick Newby put it, opening for the Liberal Democrats;

I should

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Dick Newby: Withdrawal Bill exhibits Government’s arrogance and incompetence

As the EU Withdrawal Bill hits the House of Lords, here is Dick Newby’s speech in full:

It is now a year since Your Lordships House began its debate on the Bill triggering Article 50 and 10 months since the Article was triggered.

It is generally agreed that both the withdrawal agreement and the agreement on our future relations with the EU have to be concluded before the end of the year and so we are approximately half way through the entire period available for our exit negotiations. What has been achieved so far?

My Lords, Virtually nothing.

The Government has formally agreed on the future rights of EU citizens living in the UK, but this was something which from day one it said was going to do. It has agreed on a divorce bill – but again the Prime Minister had long been clear the Government was going to do so, even if some members of her Cabinet were not.

And on the status of Northern Ireland it has agreed a form of words which, far from settling the matter, are interpreted in a completely different way in Ireland from the gloss put on them here in London, as I discovered in a range of discussions I had in Dublin last week.

On our future relationship with the EU, beyond bland and meaningless platitudes, we have nothing.

In December we were told that the Cabinet would have agreed on our future trading relationship with the EU during January. Well January has come and virtually gone and there is still no sign of such a decision, or anything approaching one.

And the Prime Minister is now so cowed by a fractious and disunited Cabinet that she daren’t even make a speech on the subject. My Lords there are many Noble Lords in Your Lordships House with longer experience of governments than me, but I doubt whether any of them will have seen a Prime Minister and a Government in such a state of paralysis.

And in the real world, our growth rate has fallen from the highest in the G7 to the lowest, the head of the OBR describes the economy as “weak and stable” and the Government’s own assessments of the impact of Brexit on the economy are uniformly negative.

It is against this background that we begin our consideration of the Withdrawal Bill.  Of course it was never intended to be the Withdrawal Bill. It was supposed to be the Great Repeal Bill. That is until the Commons Clerks object to the use of the word Great. They could equally have objected to the word repeal, because this bill is not a repeal bill. It is a transfer bill, taking the whole bulk of existing EU legislation and turning it into domestic legislation.

ML whilst it is easy to dismiss the kerfuffle about the Bill’s title with a smile, it is very revealing of the Government’s overall approach to the Brexit process. It can be characterised as a combination of arrogance and incompetence which is now threatening the future of our country. And the background ticking of the clock is getting louder by the day. 

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Lib Dem Amendment for people’s vote on Brexit deal defeated

Last night, the House of Commons voted on Amendment 120 of the EU Withdrawal Bill, whether people should be given a vote on the final Brexit deal.

It was defeated, with 23 for and 319 against – most of Labour didn’t vote!

You can watch Wera Hobhouse’s passionate speech for giving people a say on the Brexit deal here.

And Tom Brake’s speech here.

Commenting on the vote, LibDem Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

This is a shameful showing from the Labour party. They are meant to be opposing the government, but instead they

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: MPs deserve a vote on the final Brexit plan not a vague sketch

Nick Clegg’s latest iNews column casts a depressing eye over the debate over the EU Withdrawal Bill this week.

First of all, he looks at the ridiculous date of exit issue:

Putting the Brexit date – March 29th 2019 – into legislation is a particularly specious gesture. It may act as catnip to the increasingly agitated Brexiteers, but to our European partners the sight of the British government shutting down the possibility of extending the Brexit talks must look absurd. As they know, and as I do from my time working in the EU, deadlines can be, and are, frequently missed. And the suggestion from the Government that if MPs have the temerity to reject the Brexit deal they will be responsible for the chaos of no deal is as thuggish as it is misleading – if MPs were to reject a bad deal, the EU would pause the Article 50 timetable rather than push us over the edge of the Brexit cliff.

The whole idea of a meaningful vote on a deal is also ridiculous as we won’t have a deal about our future relationship with the EU before we formally leave. As Nick puts it:

So there is now a high likelihood that MPs will be asked to give their consent to Britain’s departure from the EU before knowing the detail of our future relationship with the EU. It will be like buying a house on the basis of a few grainy photos from a dodgy estate agent who won’t allow you to visit the inside. ‘Members of Parliament must hold firm and reject the government’s tactics’ On a recent trip to Brussels, it was made quite clear to me that the two negotiating teams are aiming for no more than a “heads of agreement” deal by the time Britain reaches its Article 50 deadline. This means that David Davis will return with little more than an outline of detail-free pledges on areas like security and combating terrorism, and a vague promise to strike a Canada-style free trade agreement

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EU withdrawal bill debate “pointless and dangerous political ploy”

Tom Brake had this to say as the House of Commons debated the first batch of line by line amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill:

Today the Prime Minister’s desperate attempt to buy off her hard Brexit supporters with red meat has been found out for what it is; a pointless and dangerous political ploy which has no legislative coherence and boxes the UK into an arbitrary timetable. This will only make our negotiations harder, limit our room for manoeuvre and increase the risk of No Deal.

It has been rightly and resoundingly rubbished by both sides of the House.

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Tom Brake MP writes…If you care about Brexit, read this…

Some of you might have received an email from me on Thursday night about the EU Withdrawal Bill. If you didn’t, then please continue reading.

When people voted in the EU referendum last year, nobody really knew what a future deal with the European Union might look like.

16 months on it is now clearer than ever that no deal will be anywhere near as good a deal as the one we have now. To top that off, a catastrophic “no deal” scenario is becoming likelier than ever.

The chaos and uncertainty are leading to job losses and higher prices across the UK.

That is why the Liberal Democrats believe the people deserve the final say on any Brexit deal in a referendum. And if the public doesn’t like it, we should have the option to remain in the European Union.

In two weeks’ time, MPs will be debating amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill. The Government’s majority is wafer thin – and if MPs from all parties work together, there’s a real chance we can defeat them and at the very least, stop them from pursuing a hard Brexit.

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Lib Dems offer to vote for EU Withdrawal Bill

The Government seems to be suffering a bit of a lack of votes for the EU Withdrawal Bill.

With rumours circulating in Whitehall that the Bill has now been pushed beyond the November recess, our Tom Brake has written to David Davis, offering him a wee bit of a helping hand. .

Mr Brake will be willing to work with the Secretary of State to smooth the Bill’s passage through Parliament. However, there are strings attached. He wants Government support for a number of critical Liberal Democrat amendments.

These include:

  • Maintaining EU citizens’ rights
  • Ensuring the Good Friday Agreement is not undone
  • A referendum on the final deal

Tom said:

It is clear the Government no longer have a majority on this Bill. To ease the Government’s pain and to provide some direction to their Marie Celeste of a Bill, I will be willing to work constructively with David Davis to improve the Bill.

This would be in return for the Secretary of State supporting some critical Lib Dem amendments, including providing for a vote on the final deal and enhanced scrutiny of the Bill.

The full text of Tom’s letter to David Davis is:

Dear David

I am writing to you regarding the Amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill which have been tabled by the Liberal Democrats.

As I am sure you are aware, the Liberal Democrats are greatly concerned that the EU Withdrawal Bill in its current form grants ministers control over legislation with little scrutiny and signals an extreme Brexit on the horizon for the UK, bringing with it economic chaos and confusion for businesses, EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU.

The Liberal Democrats however want to hold out an olive branch to the Government and your department and offer to work constructively with you on the Bill to smooth its passage through Parliament.

The Amendments cover a number of the most pressing issues which have arisen as a result of the Government’s policy towards Brexit and this Bill. I have set these issues and the Amendments out below.

Amendment 120 – Referendum on the deal

This Amendment would ensure that the people, not the Government will have the final say on the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU. A referendum on the terms of the deal would give people the opportunity to support the Government’s deal or state that the UK should remain a member of the EU.

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