European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:39 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark 4:39 pm, 7th September 2017

I hope that the hon. Lady will be reassured by the comments that I shall go on to make.

Let us not get ahead of ourselves. Speaker Lenthall is not in the Chair, although we have a perfectly good successor in you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Charles I is not on his way with a warrant for the arrest of my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve and my right hon. Friend Anna Soubry, although some might like to see that. Statutory instruments are a parliamentary procedure. They are not fiat; they are not Orders in Council. They can be debated. We can go and speak about them, and we can vote on them. Parliament may treat them as a Cinderella whose job is to read emails or sign paperwork, but that is our choice. It reflects on the recent history of this place rather than on the procedure itself, or how it should be in the future.

The purpose of the Bill is explicitly to replicate what we have in European law, not to change it. I understand that at least 50% of the statutory instruments will make immaterial technical changes about which no Member in his or her right mind—I know that some Members may not be—would have any concern. There needs to be a mechanism to sift based on materiality, and that point has been made eloquently by many Members today. I hope that such a mechanism will be created in Committee. There will be some material issues—issues on which I have some expertise, or issues that my constituents care about—and I should like to speak about them and ensure that we make the right decisions, but they will not be the majority. I am sure that the whole House can and will find a sensible mechanism during the Committee stage.

Constituents have also emailed me to ask, “Is this necessary?” Of course it is necessary. This is an unprecedented challenge. As we heard from the Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee, Hilary Benn, it is byzantine. However much some of those who campaigned in favour of leave would like to hide the fact, it is undoubtedly the most complex challenge that has faced the country in my lifetime, if not before. We therefore need a step like this to move the vast majority of European law, if not all of it, on to the UK statute book before we leave.

Let us be honest: there is no easy way to do this. Although the shadow Secretary of State made an excellent speech, highlighting details, deficiencies and concerns, he did not really set out an alternative way of doing it. In fact, no one has done that today: no one has set out an alternative to the Bill that would require any of us to vote against it. The deficiencies and concerns that have been highlighted must and will be ironed out in Committee. That is the truth, and beyond that, I am afraid, it is all party political activity. The Bill, or something extremely similar to it, is necessary, so let us move forward together.

When I explain this Bill in principle to my businessmen constituents and others back in Newark, and appear before the Newark business club, as all of us have—well, many Members will have been to Newark, but not necessarily to visit the business club—they nod, because it is obvious that we need a Bill of this nature so that on the day we leave the EU they can have confidence that nothing substantial will have changed. That is why we need to proceed.

In closing, and perhaps as a rebuke to Wera Hobhouse, I say that we can love Parliament and want to jealously guard its rights and privileges created by our predecessors but still show pragmatism in the national interest when the times demand it, because that is politics. That is life; that is the job we are sent here to do. That is poetry and prose, romance and reality; that is what we are sent here to achieve. So every Member who wants a smooth transition and to give our constituents the certainty they are crying out for, and everyone who may have concerns about the deficiencies of this Bill but wants to work together in the national interest to iron them out in Committee and on Third Reading, should vote for this Bill on Second Reading.