European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
This week the Commons sat late in the evening as we have voted on measures which excited much comment, including the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, once described as the Great Repeal Bill.
Half of the e-mails I received from constituents about this asked me ‘not to block Brexit’. The other half asked me to vote against the Bill. Both were misconceived.
I campaigned to remain, and I still think it is a mistake to leave the EU. But I have always made clear that, once the public had decided to leave in the referendum, the decision should be respected. I could not have been more clear about this, and I reiterated it in my election address.
Earlier this year I, along with the majority of MPs, voted to trigger ‘Article 50’, the legal process by which we are leaving the EU, and this will happen in 2019. That decision has been made.
The vote on the Bill this week was about something else - how we translate a huge body of EU law that has applied in the UK for decades into our own law when we leave.
Without such a measure there would be chaos as we left the EU. So I wasn’t terribly impressed by the arcane arguments about how powers were being assumed by ministers.
There has to be some sensible process to translate a huge body of law in a short period of time. Certainly we should build in checks to ensure proper parliamentary scrutiny. But those who tried to stop the Bill altogether were in my view being unrealistic, even irresponsible.
The much more important discussion is about how we leave the EU, where I believe we need a transitional arrangement to avoid a damaging ‘cliff-edge’ where businesses which trade with the EU suddenly face new barriers.
Also this week the Commons voted to ensure that - as is usual - the Government has a majority on all committees. Again, this was merely sensible, and again, without it there would have been chaos.
As a majority in the Commons voted for this measure I don't see how it can be improper or unconstitutional. I can see that it must be irritating for opposition MPs to be outvoted, but that doesn’t make it an abuse of process.
If you were asleep when these decisions were made you didn't miss anything. There was much sound and fury, but in truth these measures were less controversial than the protagonists liked to pretend.