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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 28th February 2018.

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Photo of Lord Wigley Lord Wigley Plaid Cymru 4:45 pm, 28th February 2018

I support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, which seeks to clarify the status of EU directives which will be “adopted, but not implemented” on the day we exit the EU. The Government have repeatedly stressed that the purpose of the Bill is to provide legal certainty. Whichever side of the Brexit debate we take, clearly, that is a worthy and necessary objective. That being so, I am truly baffled that in this instance the Bill totally fails to give that clarity. Everyone affected or potentially affected by EU legislation that has been adopted but not implemented needs to have absolute certainty as to where they stand.

Amendment 18, if passed, would allow Ministers to treat EU directives adopted before exit day to stand, for those purposes, as if the UK had not left the EU. I understand from a House of Commons briefing that no fewer than 23 directives have already been published with implementation deadlines which fall after 29 March 2019. Several of these would enhance the lives of UK citizens. For example, one is aimed at strengthening restrictions on firearms, which are currently permitted to move freely within the European single market. If the Bill stands unamended, can the Minister clarify whether firearms will be controlled when they cross the north-south border in Ireland, for example? Another such directive aims at limiting the exposure of employees to dangerous substances in the workplace, such as carcinogens and mutagens. I will not elaborate but clearly there is an arguable case for saying that such safeguards should be part of UK law. Even more so, there is a crying imperative that people know where they stand on such matters.