Confirmed: EU Withdrawal Bill Is Back In The Commons Next Week
Leadsom confirmed today that the Withdrawal Bill will come back to the Commons next week. This comes as no surprise, however, as Tuesday this week saw a leaked letter from Government whip Julian Smith in which he announced that the Withdrawal Bill will return to the Commons on Tuesday and that MPs must be “working from the estate [Westminster] at all times, we will be voting way beyond the moment of interruption”.
The initial decision by the Government to try and overturn all 15 Lords amendment in a single, 12-hour sitting was, as Jane Thomas, Alliance coordinator told City A.M on Tuesday, a pretty shameful move when Parliament is confronted with the most complex and detailed piece of legislation for over 40 years. Indeed, most of the session will be spent in and out of the lobby, not debating or undertaking scrutiny. The Government is leaving Parliament in the dark by not allowing enough time for scrutiny of not only technical, legislative details but also amendments to the bill that limit Henry VIII powers and protect fundamental rights. Steven Swinford (deputy political editor for the Telegraph) tweeted yesterday that Theresa May have compromised with Tory rebels by agreeing that the Withdrawal Bill will be heard over Tuesday and Wednesday next week in two six hour sessions. Leadsom confirmed this during today's business statement. Still, two 6-hour sessions means the level of scrutiny and debate remains low but at least they won’t be sitting late in to the night...
Next week could be a game changer. MPs will then have the chance to back changes made by the House of Lords, not only amendments on the Brexit deal itself but also amendments that protect hard-won rights and standards. Here are the Lords amendments that we urge MPs to support.
Note that the bill is then timetabled to go back to the Lords on Monday June 18th. The ability of the government to control the timetable in the House of Lords is less and it maybe M’Lords decided to spend a little more time in the debating Chamber and less in the voting Lobby. It also allows - importantly - for the House of Commons to have a third day of debate on the preceding Thursday if necessary.
Last December, a Commons amendment on a meaningful vote was only passed by four votes, in April the House of Lords passed a similar amendment, but more meaningful by 128 votes. If passed by MPs it could be the most significant defeat for the Government. This amendment is not about stopping UK’s withdrawal from the EU but giving elected parliamentarians the role of determining the withdrawal agreement - an agreement that will have implications for years to come. Recommended reading is this House of Commons Library Briefing on the issue- Brexit: Parliament's role in approving and implementing agreements with the European Union
Still uncertainty about the status of EU and UK nationals post-Brexit
During this week’s Exiting the EU Committee oral evidence session, groups likethe 3 Million, East European Resource Centre and British in Europe repeated concerns about the uncertain status of both EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals in Europe. As always, the devil is in the detail - issues like the need for making the EU citizens registration scheme accessible for vulnerable groups and clarify what qualifies deportation are yet to be mapped out in further details. And it’s worth repeating how devastating a no deal will be for EU citizens as they will, in effect, become illegal citizens unless the political agreement on citizens rights is put into a robust, legal text. Note also that Jane Golding from British in Germany echoed this: “there is only so much the EU27 can do in terms of registrations of UK nationals because the Withdrawal Agreement is not finalised, it is not a legally binding text so authorities in member states are trying to do what they can, but there’s not much clarity on what they are going to implement”. She also said that putting continued freedom of movement back on the negotiation table would, of course, alleviate these concerns. Fiona Godfrey added to this- intel in Brussels tell them that the EU is willing to offer continued freedom of movement in the Withdrawal Agreement, but for that to happen, they need the British Government to make that request on behalf of Britons living in Europe. Conservative MP, Richard Graham responded to this by saying that that should be a crucial negotiation position for the UK Government.
We’re excited about heading to Cornwall to host a roundtable on all things standards, rights and civil society post-Brexit. Join us for this free information sharing and networking afternoon here.