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Parliamentary sovereignty

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 8th January 2020.

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Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 4:00 pm, 8th January 2020

I am going to make some progress on amendment 9. I look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman’s speech as a trade rep; I shall listen carefully to his remarks and intervene on him if that is appropriate and helpful to the debate.

The House will be aware that the Government previously published an impact assessment in support of the Bill. It is a standard assessment of the direct costs and benefits to businesses of elements of the Bill, and is available to Parliament and the public.

The assessment is in addition to the Government’s analysis, which was published in November 2018. It is detailed and robust and covers a broad range of scenarios.

In his letter to the Treasury Committee on 21 October last year, the Chancellor of Exchequer committed the Government to provide continued analysis of the appropriate points through the next stages of the negotiations. Hopefully, that will reassure Thangam Debbonaire, in addition to the reassurance she received from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who spoke on issues of parliamentary scrutiny in the debate on the previous group. The Government remain committed to provide that analysis and will inform Parliament with the best analysis on which to base decisions. We will do so at the appropriate time, and so that it does not impede our ability to strike a good deal. I do not think that Members of Parliament or the British public would want us to do otherwise.

The British people have voted to get Brexit done and we must honour that by leaving with a deal. Fundamentally, amendment 9 is sadly another attempt to delay Brexit. We do not want to test the people’s patience further by adding another step to the process, so I urge the SNP to withdraw the amendment. An impact assessment already exists and is there for everyone to see.

I thank Stephen Farry for tabling amendment 35, but unfortunately we cannot accept it. The clause recognises a principal fundamental to our constitutional relationships: that Parliament is sovereign. Nothing in the Bill derogates from the sovereignty of Parliament, as the clause makes clear. In passing legislation to give effect to the withdrawal agreement, Parliament is exercising that sovereignty. Clause 5 is a critical component of the Bill: it provides individuals and businesses with some clarity, such that they can rely on the withdrawal agreement. It also provides for the withdrawal agreement to take priority over domestic law where it is incompatible. That is consistent with parliamentary sovereignty. Parliament is giving effect to the priority of the withdrawal agreement. The effect of the hon. Gentleman’s amendment would go beyond that. It would be novel and it would bind Parliament’s hands in exercising its ability to make and unmake law. He should be assured that such an amendment is entirely unnecessary, so I hope that he does not press it to a vote.

New clause 28 seeks to introduce a clause that would require a further confirmatory referendum. We do not want any more referendums. May I gently remind Sir Edward Davey—he is not in his place, but I will send him a copy of Hansard—that we have recently had a general election and we are committed to leaving the European Union on 31 January? I see that Layla Moran is in her place. Let me apologise to her as the new clause has been backed by the entire Liberal Democrat Bench. I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn or not moved.