2nd Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:37 pm on 11th September 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Ben Bradley Ben Bradley Conservative, Mansfield 9:37 pm, 11th September 2017

On 23 June 2016, the people of Mansfield voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU. They were so passionate about the issue that a record number turned out to vote on that day and 72% voted to leave. This decision was born out of not ignorance or fear but a feeling of indignation at the UK’s treatment by the EU and a desire to regain control of our borders, our laws and, most importantly, our sovereignty. With that decision has come a lot of uncertainty about Britain’s future—uncertainty that could have a massive effect on many aspects of our lives. I have spoken to a number of fantastic businesses in my constituency that will be affected in several different ways, some positive, some less so, but they all agree on the need for continuity and as much certainty as we can find. Nobody wants a situation in which our legislation disappears overnight, and it is that cliff edge that this Bill tries to avoid. A vote against it could plunge my constituents and the UK into chaos. At best, it would clearly lead to confusion and delay.

I welcome the words of Caroline Flint, who laid out very clearly the implications of voting against the Bill. I hope that her colleagues on the Opposition Benches will listen to her. Let us be clear that, despite the misleading media attention, the Bill does not give the Government carte blanche to legislate as they please. First, the limitations imposed by the affirmative procedure will prevent major decisions from being made without the scrutiny they rightly deserve, and even the negative procedure means that the instrument appears on the Order Paper and can be called out. Secondly, as we saw last June, the electorate simply will not stand being dictated to by an over-powerful Executive. The electorate ultimately have the power in their hands.

It is pretty hypocritical of Opposition Members to use the delegated legislation as an excuse when, as Kate Hoey pointed out last week, the previous Labour Government relied so heavily on that kind of legislation to carry them through. I would be pleased to see further discussion of the safeguards that must be in place as we go forward to reassure Members who have legitimate concerns about how we sift out the bits of EU law we want to look at or about how we use the delegated legislation procedures, but that is exactly what the Committee stage is for. I therefore say to colleagues that any concerns in that regard should not prevent them from agreeing in principle to the Bill, as we are being asked to do today. One change that I would like to see proposed at that stage is including the leaving date in the Bill to give my constituents confidence that we are working towards a date and that there will be no lengthy delay in our leaving. I am sure that we can look at that closely going forward.

The powers that this Bill would bestow on Government are necessary to amend 12,000 EU regulations that require adaptation and incorporation into our newly independent legal system. It should be pretty clear to all of us that we cannot hope to take each and every one of those possible changes as votes in this House and sit here for hours and hours having thousands of votes—that is just not doable.

If passed, the Bill will stand us in good stead in the negotiations, showing that we respect the EU and the legislation that is currently in place, and that we can make trade and other legal arrangements with the EU on its own terms, but also that we have a contingency arrangement in place should “no deal” arise. A vital part of any negotiation is the ability to walk away. Opposition Members still do not quite seem to understand that concept. Regardless of whether we voted to leave or remain in the referendum, the political reality is that we need to prepare for life outside the EU. By voting for this Bill, we are not only enacting the will of the British people but giving the Government the very best chance of getting a good deal from the EU in the negotiations ahead, and ensuring that there is a secure and sturdy legal framework in the event of no deal. Frustrating or stalling the passage of this Bill, as Opposition Members are trying so hard to do, presents a significant threat to our bargaining position and our security in the long term. Clearly, what the UK needs now is continuity. The time to push for more safeguards and other amendments will come when we look at this more closely in Committee.

I conclude by thanking the Leader of the Opposition, in his absence, for his visit to my constituency on Saturday; it was a fantastic event, actually. With Mansfield hosting the Tour of Britain last Wednesday, I said at the time that any event that brings people in from outside the area to spend their money in Mansfield is worthy of my support, so it was brilliant to see so many of his supporters arrive in buses from Islington to wave their banners in the park and to boost our economy by buying their lunch and all the rest of it. I take this opportunity to thank him for moving his party so far away from the traditional values of thousands of lifelong Labour voters in Mansfield that they decided to vote Conservative for the first time ever in June. On the doorstep, their reasons were very consistent—“Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn”. The two are very closely connected. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that residents in Mansfield will not thank him if he attempts to frustrate and delay Brexit when we vote on this Bill. They do not want political games—they want a commitment to Brexit. Speeches by Opposition Members like that of Mr Lammy and others just go to prove that the only way to get that is from this Conservative Government.