New year- new amendments: EU Withdrawal Bill returns to the Commons

Report Stage of the bill are 16th and 17th January and will be the final chance for the Government to follow through on promises made during Committee Stage.Below we explore latest updates on devolution, the Charter, new Government amendments and what the cabinet reshuffle means for the bill. 

Government delays its promise to protect devolution in the bill
Already the government is facing some criticism from the Scottish Governmentfor not keeping its promise of amending aspects of the bill that deal with devolution (a more detailed look at the relevant clauses can be found here). According to reports in the press the reason behind the delay is due the resignation of Damian Green, who was leading talks with devolved administrations. Yet at PMQs on Wednesday 10th January, David Lidington seemed to suggest it was because the Government had not reached agreement with devolved administrations on an acceptable form of words. The crucial thing for the government is to find a form of words that also satisfies Scottish Tory MPs like Paul Masterton who used PMQs to remind the Government about personal assurances given to him about amendments to Clause 11.

New amendments tabled by the Government- but do they go far enough? 
The deadline for tabling amendments is 5pm Thursday January 11th. The Government has tabled several of their own amendments, including those restricting the Henry VIII powers. But as always, the devil is in the detail- the vague language of some of these amendments fail to provide clarity on what the sweeping powers can actually be used for.

It appears there is nothing tabled by the Government that addresses the concerns around the Charter and Labour are reportedly going to force a vote on this at Report Stage. Certainly there are significant number of civil society groups who remain concerned that the substantive rights currently enshrined in the Charter are weakened.
 

The cabinet reshuffle- implications for the Withdrawal Bill
The New Year also brought a new Cabinet, although not as new as the PM suggested and many saw this as an exercise in rearranging the deckchairs. However Justine Greening, resignation places her on the backbenches and it was noted that her chosen place on those benches at PMQs was next to other Tory rebels who also voted to remain, such as Grieve, Soubry and Morgan.

It’s also worth noting that changes to the ministry of Justice will be significant for the bill, new additions (such as David Gauke) will now need to grapple with one of the most complex and constitutional significant pieces of legislation- midway through its passage in the Commons. Dominic Raab, who spoke a lot on the Government’s behalf during Committee Stage is no longer at the Ministry of Justice. In addition, Suella Fernandes, a hardline Brexiteer, has been appointed to DExEU. What that will mean for Government concessions is not entirely clear, but given that she's taken a hard stance against the EU she may be more reluctant to concede on various issues MPs has raised. 

When will parliament be given a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal? 
What else 2018 will bring has been written about here. However, one date that has not been decided but is now the cause of some speculation amongst both MPs and peers is WHEN the meaningful vote will take place. When pressed about this by Andrew Marr on his Sunday show Theresa May said that the intention is to have the vote before the agreement goes to the vote European parliament. Given that Barnier expects that to be from the end of October we can expect the all important meaningful vote to be after parliament returns from party conference season. Watch out for more amendments fleshing out details on the meaningful vote in the Lords. 

After Third reading in the Commons, it’s onto the Lords, where we expect peers to put up a fight
Once Third Reading (which takes place straight after Report Stage) is completed the bill goes to the Lords.There’s nothing official on when the bill will go to the Lords, but we are expecting end of January. Given that the government does NOT have a majority there, and the concerns already expressed by peers both vocally and in published reports about the bill, suggests that this is not going to be straightforward. Peers have also been vocal about the use of the “strong arm tactics” employed by the Whips during the Commons stage with two peers using an article in the Guardian to warn May to call off the dogs.

For Alliance members working with peers

  •  Advisable to brief Peers before Second Reading as they like to give notice of what and where they are likely to table amendments.
  • Click here for House of Lords procedures

The impact of Brexit on the third sector- a Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) event
As Brexit progresses, uncertainty and unknowns prevail. With the outline of a deal now beginning to emerge, now more than ever, charities and voluntary organisations will need to make their voice heard, identify and navigate unprecedented challenges and adapt to an, as yet unknown, new reality.

With this in mind, SCVO is hosting a reception, where Michael Russel MSP will outline the latest in terms of negotiations and offer his view on where we are heading and set out the Scottish Government position regarding Brexit. The reception will take place on Monday 20 January, 6-8pm at Scotland House, London, EC4Y 0DS. Places are limited and based on a first come, first basis. If you are interested in attending, please ensure you register here.
 

Campaigns toolkit- a guide to campaigning on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill

Our very own campaigns toolkit has just been published- lots of tips and tools on how we can make this a better bill and protect rights and standards. Get in touch with malene@repealbill.org for a printed copy. 

Some recommended reading: 

Malene Bratlie