European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:05 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 1:05 pm, 7th September 2017

No. I spent 20-plus years as a human rights lawyer interpreting and applying provisions such as the charter and acting for many people to whose lives it made a real difference, as the Secretary of State will know.

I want to move on the question of devolved powers. At the moment, EU law limits the powers of the devolved institutions. On withdrawal, the default position ought to be that the devolved institutions would have power over matters falling within the devolved fields, but clause 11 prevents that and diverts powers that ought to go to Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast to London, where they are to be hoarded. That is fundamentally the wrong approach, but it is totally consistent with the Government’s approach of grabbing powers and avoiding scrutiny.

On that topic, let me deal with exit day, a crucially important day in the Bill. It is the day on which the European Communities Act will be repealed. It is also the day on which the role of the European Court of Justice will be extinguished in our law, and that matters hugely, whatever anyone’s long-term view, particularly for transitional arrangements. I heard the Secretary of State say this morning that he wanted transitional arrangements that were as close as possible to the current arrangements. I think he knows, in his heart of hearts, that that will almost certainly involve a role for the European Court of Justice—although he will say that it would be temporary.

Exit day, the day on which the role of the Court is extinguished, is crucial. Without it, we might not be able to transition on the terms that the Secretary of State was suggesting this morning. He knows that. Control over exit day is therefore hugely important. Who will have that control? People talk about bringing back control, and they might think that Parliament would have control over this important issue. But no. Enter clause 14, which states that

“‘exit day’
means such day as a Minister of the Crown may by regulations appoint”.

This will be in the sole power of a Minister. Anyone simply passing this Bill must be prepared to be a spectator on the question of what the transitional measures should be and how they operate. That is a huge risk to our national interests.