FINAL DAY OF COMMITTEE STAGE FOR THE EU (WITHDRAWAL) BILL
As we come to the final day of the Committee Stage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill the Alliance has been looking at some of the new clauses and amendments that may get debated tomorrow.
Most attention has been around the government's Exit Day amendment (381) and the subsequent amendments tabled by Oliver Letwin. But there will be other very interesting and important debates that will present opportunities to probe further on developments from the EU Council meeting of the 15th December and more recently, todays Cabinet meeting.
So without fear or favour, below are some amendments that would be interesting to see debated and progressed tomorrow.
Day eight – 20 December - covers:
Publication of retained direct EU legislation and ministers’ delegated powers (Clause 13, Schedule 5)
Interpretation of the language used in the Bill (Clause 14)
Definition of “exempt EU instrument” (Schedule 6)
Index of defined expressions (Clause 15)
General provisions relating to Clause 17 and amendments to specific pieces of legislation (Schedule 8)
Additional acts which will be repealed (Schedule 9)
Territorial extent of the Bill (Clause 18)
When the Bill will come into force (Clause 19)
Exiting the EU and Exit Day
Most of the excitement about the last day of the Committee Stage has focused on provisions around Exit Day - not least of all because the Conservatives voting against the Government last week threatened to do so again on Amendment 381. This amendment to Clause 14, specifying exit day to be “29 March 2019 at 11.00 p.m", was debated on the first day of Committee Stage.
On Friday 10 November, the Government tabled amendments 381, 382 and 383 in order to enshrine in law the commitment that exit day will be 11pm GMT, 29 March 2019 (midnight Brussels time). The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis stated at the time: “We’ve listened to members of the public and Parliament and have made this change to remove any confusion or concern about what ‘exit day’ means”. The amendments reflects the UK Government and the EU’s stated intention, confirmed in the Joint Report on Phase 1 of the negotiations, that the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019.
On 15 December, four Conservative MPs, Oliver Letwin (former minister), Andrea Jenkins, Jeremy Lefroy and Geoffrey Cox, tabled a new amendment to the Bill. The amendment, which has been viewed as an attempt to head the Tory rebels off at the pass, means that ministers will not be able to fix the date without “a resolution of each House of Parliament”
In total, Sir Oliver Letwin has tabled a package of seven Amendments (399 to 405) that allow a Minister of the Crown to amend the definition of “exit day” in Clause 14 (1) if the day or time when the UK ceases to be a member of the EU differs from that definition. His amendment would allow ministers to use delegated powers to change the date and time of exit day if the UK ends up leaving the EU on a different date to the one specified. If negotiations have to be extended beyond 29 March 2019, the Government can prevent the UK leaving the EU with no deal.
It is significant that two of the MPs who tabled the amendment voted for Brexit, while the other two voted to remain in the EU, and it is likely this amendment will have support from across the backbenches. Dominic Grieve is “fairly satisfied” with the amendment and if the Government accepts it, it may encourage backbench MPs to vote in favour of Amendment 381. Please refer to the Institute for Government that has an excellent overview of all the days of the Committee Stage debate.
Dominic Grieve has also tabled an amendment (Amendment 6) to this section of the Bill which would ensure that the appointed exit day is the same for every part of the Act. This has the support of nine other Conservative backbenchers and may cause some concern for the Government. It was selected for debate on day 1 and would fall the Governments amendment on fixed date (381) is agreed BUT given that they don't want to push a vote on that amendment (hence the Letwin amendments) this could still be interesting.
Chris Leslie has tabled a range of new clauses and amendments:
NC 5 would ensure that Parliament has ratified successor arrangements for a future relationship and Treaty between the EU and UK before ‘exit day’ can be appointed by Ministers.
NC 13 This new clause would ensure that provisions allowing the UK to remain a member of the Customs Union, as currently set out in section 5 of the European Communities Act 1972 but set to be repealed by section 1 of this Act, will be enacted ahead of exit day.
NC 9 and Amendment 64 pertain to Schedule 8 amending the European Economic Area Act 1993 and means the Act remains in force as it currently exists after exit day, and the UK would remain a member of the EEA.
New Clause 10 would require the UK Government to seek transitional arrangements that would allow existing trade agreements which currently apply to the UK to be negotiated and continued for the circumstances applying after the UK has exited the EU, and would seek transitional arrangements including an associate membership of the EU Single Market for not less than two years following exit day.
Other amendments and Clauses
Conservative MP Robert Neill has tabled two amendments (New Clause 71 and 72) which require the Government to report on progress in negotiating mutual market access for financial and professional services and mutual recognition of controls on food and feed import. Given David Davis’ admission that the UK Government has done “no systematic impact assessment”, this issue is likely to come up again during the debate. The Labour frontbench have tabled an amendment (Amendment 348) which would require the Government to publish any assessments it has carried out of the economic impact of leaving the EU.
New Clause 71 is important to establish what the thinking is behind a bespoke trade deal for the financial services especially given todays Cabinet meeting where the mood appears to be to push ahead with demands for bespoke Brexit deal. On Monday Michel Barnier said it was unavoidable that British banks and financial firms would lose the passports that allow them to trade freely in the EU, as a result of any decision to quit the single market.
New Clause 23: Labour MP Heidi Alexander tabled NC23 requiring the Government to publish an assessment of whether the UK should join the European Free Trade Association.
New Clause 61: Mary Creagh and would ensure that the EU REACH regulations remain in place (the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals).
Dominic Grieve Amendment 11 which has cross party support would remove the proposal to allow secondary legislation to be treated as primary for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998.
Given yesterdays questions to the Prime Minister on Gibraltar New Clause 56 from Peter Grant is quite interesting: to ensure that the Bill does not remove or prejudice rights (for instance in the financial services field) which, as a result of the UK’s (and Gibraltar’s) common membership of the EU, could be exercised in the UK by a person from or established in Gibraltar, where that right existed immediately before exit day.
And it is only right to flag up Ken Clarke's New Clause 54 given the attention to detail he has given to this bill and the amount of time he has spent in the Chamber. This new clause would ensure that the objectives set out by the Prime Minister in her Florence speech are given the force of law and, if no implementation and transition period is achieved in negotiations, then exit day may not be triggered by a Minister of the Crown. The appointment of an ‘exit day’ would therefore require a fresh Act of Parliament in such circumstances.
Again this could be an interesting debate given that after today's Cabinet meeting the prime minister’s spokesman said the government would develop its goals on the basis of the plans set out in her Lancaster House and Florence speeches.