It’s not all about Westminster (although it feels like it)…...

Events dear boy, events.

Every E Bulletin seems to reflect on the swirl of the politics - this week seems to have been developing into something more tidal.

Whilst many commentators have spent the last 12 hours reflecting on what actually happened at Chequers the real news is that Theresa May has decided to postpone votes on the Trade Bill and the Customs Bill going through the Commons will be delayed until after the May elections.

That is because party managers know that at the moment, with Labour continuing to shift its position on the single market, and with the Soubry and Chukka amendment,  the prime minister will lose a crucial vote. That means that both the Trade Bill and “ping pong” with EU (Withdrawal) Bill will be happening at the same time in the House of Commons and against the backdrop of the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Watch this space.

Committee Stage Day 1 of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill in the House of Lords

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill  was back in the Lords this week for Day 1 of Committee Stage. Much of the debate centred around concerns about leaving the customs union and single market.

Whilst assessing the economic impacts were an important part of the debate, its potential impact on things like food standards and animal welfare saw peers from all sides raising concerns.

The potential that leaving the custom union has for a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remains a real issue. The importance of protecting the Good Friday Agreement, something that is likely to be raised in every day of the Committee Stage, and was mentioned repeatedly on Wednesday and from all sides with peers like Lord Carlile (Crossbench) an Baroness Altmann (Conservative) making interventions. Baroness Kennedy (Labour) told fellow peers that the Good Friday Agreement served as a reminder for why its principles must be protected post-Brexit:  “if we are really concerned about the great achievement of getting through that peace treaty and peace process, and about not it putting it at risk, we would not be so cavalier about what is provided by a customs union and why it is so important. Sustaining it into the future must be one of the things we seek to do”

Government has yet to bring amendments to clause 11

The constitutional aspects to the bill are beginning to shape up to being the most difficult nut for the government to crack. Lord Foulkes fired the first salvo of the day reminding peers that the government has still not published the promised amendments to Clause 11. Its worth looking at his amendment and the subsequent debate here, especially the suggestion from Lord Warner that there is a precedent for pausing consideration in Committee if there has “been no action from the Government”.

Debate around Clause 11 (which brings back all EU powers to Westminster against the wishes of Scotland and Wales) continues to swirl, and  for the devolved nations this is dominating much of their national discourse. Despite briefings to various commentators earlier in the week that a way forward had been by Thursday night an agreement over changes to clause 11 has still not been reached.  

Nations and Regions

Given that the constitutional implications with this bill are massive the alliance has spent quite a bit of time in both Scotland, Wales and visits to Belfast. This week both Jane Thomas from the Alliance and Sarah Clarke from Unlock Democracy visited Glasgow for The Gathering, the annual event organised by SCVO and that draws up to 6,000 people over 2 days. Two issues dominate the sector - Brexit and the fall out from the Oxfam and Save the Children scandals. Both have huge ramifications for those in the charity sector - and therefore for wider society.

There is much more the alliance is doing over the next few weeks so please see everything at the bottom.

Webinars & Events

We are hosting a series of webinars in the coming months with guest speakers to inform, engage and listen to the concerns of civil society about the EU Withdrawal Bill. The webinars will cover various issues, ranging from devolution, protection of rights to delegated legislation and constitutional issues. All you need is a phone line, computer or laptop to participate in our conversations from the comfort of your work desk or even your arm chair.

This week, we hosted a discussion on the impact the bill and Brexit more generally will have on civil society in Wales. We were joined by Gethin Rhys, policy officer at Churches Together Wales who talked about the work his organisation are doing to make sure rights, standards and devolution are protected post-Brexit. If you missed the webinar, it’s well worth taking a look at his presentation to find out more 

Next week, we are hosting two webinars.

The first will be on Monday 26th February, 1-2pm where we will be discussing the work the Alliance are doing and give you and update on the latest from the House of Lords, where the Withdrawal Bill are currently being debated. Sarah Clarke from Unlock Democracy will also be joining us to discuss the work Unlock Democracy has done to improve the EU Withdrawal Bill.

On Wednesday February, 1-2pm will be talking about our work with Welsh civil society and Owen Davies from Constitutional Affairs and Inter-Governmental Relations (CAIGR) will also be joining us.

Sign up to one of our webinars here.

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Malene Bratlie