European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of Chuka Umunna Chuka Umunna Labour, Streatham 4:45 pm, 7th September 2017

I will not give way, I am afraid, because of the time. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says he is not silent; he is certainly not silent.

The Secretary of State today said that the Government wish the transitional arrangements to be as close as possible to the existing arrangements. The EU27 are really only going to entertain membership of the single market and a form of customs union, if that is what the Secretary of State means, but they will also expect the rules on the transitional arrangements to be uniform and similar to those we have at present. The problem with clause 6 as drafted is that it does not give a clear enough instruction that after the exit date the judiciary should interpret UK law in a way that complies with EU law. The Institute for Government states that the ambiguity on this point risks leaving judges stranded on the frontline of a fierce political battle. I can say, as someone who practised as a lawyer for the best part of a decade before coming here, that that must be addressed.

The Bill cannot be allowed to come into force unless this House has approved the deal that is envisaged. The Bill does not state whether any withdrawal agreement will need the consent of both Houses before the powers can be used. The Government have said that we will get a vote on a final deal, but that does not appear to be within the Bill. Rather, it will take place by means of a motion, which would of course not be legally binding. So we have a promise of a vote, but it will have no teeth. That will deprive this House of its proper say not only on the withdrawal agreement but on a situation that the Prime Minister has described in which an affirmative decision could be made to walk away without any deal at all. We are somehow supposed to be passive spectators in that situation. It must be written on the face of the Bill that Parliament will have a part to play in all those scenarios, and that no powers in the Bill will be exercised until Parliament has had its say through a debate written in statute. We have been given many guarantees and assurances by those on the Government Front Bench, but these measures have to be put on the face of the Bill. We are asking for these assurances and scrutinising the Bill in the national interest, and we are entitled to do so without our motives being questioned.