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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 28th February 2018.

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Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) 5:30 pm, 28th February 2018

No, that would not be covered, because in those circumstances there would have been no crystallisation of the direct right prior to the exit date. That is our position with regard to that point—but I am obliged to the noble and learned Lord for his acknowledgment that we are answering questions as they are posed. I was rather hoping that my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern might actually come forward to the Front Bench and allow me to retire to the second tier in order that this matter could be dealt with even more cogently than I am able to do.

I return for just a moment to the actual amendment. I have sought to emphasise—clearly, I hope—why the amendment is not appropriate in the present context. It would simply take away from one of the principal purposes of the Bill, which is to determine that there is an exit date—a cut-off point—when we will determine the scope of our own domestic law. I can quite understand the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, about emerging provisions in the EU that have been worked on for many years and that would bring about appropriate and attractive standards for various aspects of our life in the United Kingdom—but, of course, it would be perfectly open to this Parliament to decide, in light of what has already been agreed in Europe, that it would be appropriate to have these standards in our domestic law, and we will have the means to do that. It is just that they will not form part of retained EU law for the purposes of this Bill.

On the noble Baroness’s amendment, I respectfully suggest that the mechanism that she has put forward—that you somehow retain the ECA for some purpose after it has been repealed—simply would not work. I appreciate that this is Committee, and we are actually looking at the underlying purpose of the proposed amendment and therefore have to consider whether we find that attractive and then look for a way to make it work. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to notice that the actual mechanism proposed in the amendment would not work.

I hope that I have addressed most of the points raised by noble Lords, but I agree with the observations made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, with regard to what this Bill is attempting to achieve. It is attempting to achieve certainty as to the scope of our domestic law at exit date. That is its purpose, and we must keep that in mind.