Leadsom: Withdrawal Bill To Return To The Commons In “Weeks Not Months”
Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom made her usual business statement today. News had been swirling last night that the EU Withdrawal Bill was going to be brought back to the House of Commons for ping pong in the next fortnight and that MPs had been ordered to cancel all leave. This was a surprising turnaround, as previous rumours had been that the bill may have been put on hold while the government got its house in order.
Leadsom announced today that she will ‘update the house shortly on important Brexit bills” and she’s confident that “the House will make swift progress in the matter of weeks, not months”. It remains to be seen whether the EU Withdrawal Bill will come back for ping pong before the all important EU Summit (28th and 29 June). The next business statement will be on the 7th of June. Be prepared - we could still see the legislative coming back for ping pong in June.
As ever, the politics are swirling around whether the Tory rebels will vote in favour of the amendments, including those which would keep the UK in the EEA and customs union.
A meeting of the Conservative’s 1922 Committee for backbench MPs on Tuesday night had the European Research Group bloc calling on Downing Street to ensure that the Tory remainers will vote against the Lords amendments.
Aside from the politics around the EEA/Customs Union membership, it is equally important that MPs to vote in favour of amendments that will protect fundamental rights and standards. Namely, the amendments that limit ministerial powers, keep the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in the bill, and those which protect environmental standards and principles. Read our briefing to MPs ahead of ping-pong here.
Devolution in crisis?
The latest blog from the Alliance reflects on the implications of Scotland’s rejection of the Withdrawal Bill. Brexit, and the Withdrawal Bill itself, have exposed the weaknesses of our constitutional settlement. As soon as the bill was published last July, Nicola Sturgeon labelled the Withdrawal Bill as a “power grab” by Westminster over hard won devolution settlements in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Fast forward to now, where the Scottish Parliament voted against giving legislative consent to the biggest and most complex piece of legislation in the last 40 or 50 years. This is huge in and of itself. However this issue will likely come to a head when the Supreme Court rules on the matter after the hearing with court dates set for the 24-25 July. We are indeed in unchartered territory.
Brexit and the isle of Ireland
This week, the Alliance went to the Brexit and the isle of Ireland conference hosted by the UK in a Changing Europe. Evident from panel discussions throughout the day is that there are significant concerns about what consequences a hard Brexit may have not just for the movement of goods over the border but also for citizens in Northern Ireland. In fact, a report presented at the conference shows that 61.3% of citizens in Northern Ireland favour a ‘soft’ Brexit (i.e. staying in the single market and customs union) in order to avoid a hard border. There are also significant concerns about Brexit’s impact on potential loss of fundamental rights, particularly anti-discrimination and equality rights. The report is well worth a read and can be found here.