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2nd Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:32 pm on 11th September 2017.

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Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn 5:32 pm, 11th September 2017

The Bill has been described as “not fit for purpose”, and as a “monstrosity of a Bill”. I agree with both those descriptions, and that is one of the reasons why I will not support it on Second Reading. I believe that it undermines this sovereign Parliament—and, indeed, other Parliaments and devolved Assemblies in the United Kingdom.

I respect the result of the EU referendum. My constituency voted narrowly to leave—very narrowly, by some 700 votes—so I understand both sides of the argument. My constituency mirrored the UK and Wales in voting to leave. In the EU referendum campaign, I said that I would vote for article 50, and I did so, because I accepted and respected the referendum. In the general election campaign of 2017, I said I would support a “sensible Brexit”, and I will, but not by bypassing Parliament.

I told the electorate that I would respect the devolution settlement in our country, and I will. The Bill will be enacted to replace the European Communities Act 1972. A lot has happened since 1972, not least the setting up of devolved Administrations by referendums and by Acts of this sovereign Parliament. When we talk about the legislators taking back control, we mean just that—legislators, in the plural. The competence of those Assemblies and of Parliament needs to be protected, and the Bill does not do that. It talks about consultation and discussion, but it does not talk about respecting the devolved Administrations.

Although I am unhappy with the replies I have received from the Government about the Irish border issue and the Irish dimension, and how that will have an impact on Welsh ports, as well as about Euratom—I led a debate on it, and we will need an associate or alternative membership with our colleagues on it—it is not for those reasons that I will vote against the Bill tonight, but because the Bill undermines parliamentary democracy. I will take no lectures from the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union or the Government on delays, a cliff edge or creating chaos, because as colleagues have said, they have already done that. They spent months—months—denying the referendum result, and trying through the courts to prevent this House from enacting article 50, which was a costly process. They spent months this year having a general election, which cost millions of pounds and delayed this process by many months. This PM went to the country and said she wanted to increase her majority to increase her mandate. She did not achieve that: she lost her mandate, and she lost the moral authority to carry on as normal.