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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 18th April 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Smith of Newnham Baroness Smith of Newnham Liberal Democrat 6:00 pm, 18th April 2018

My Lords, I too have added my name to the amendment. It has been suggested that some amendments may be attempts to subvert the will of the people. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, suggested that to discuss a customs union was somehow to go outside the purpose of the Bill. Amendment 8, however, speaks to the heart of the Bill, which, as I understand it, is intended to do two things. It will repeal the European Communities Act 1972, and it will ensure that on the day we leave, the United Kingdom has a full statute book and there is full regulatory alignment with the European Union.

There are clauses that deal with regulations, retained law and directives, and a clause to deal with regulations that currently have direct effect. But there is an anomaly in relation to directives that have been adopted but not yet implemented. There are two particularly important points in the title of the new clause in the amendment. The first is the fact that the directives have been adopted. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, suggested that things could change. But if the directives have been adopted they are already EU legislation—legislation in which the United Kingdom has participated. It seems somewhat strange that directives that we have been part of, and which we have implemented and enshrined in UK law, should continue to be part of our law, but that we are not transposing, nor looking for any way of transposing, other directives that we have agreed to, and which will be important as part of regulatory alignment when we leave.

The second important point in the title of the new clause is the idea that the directives will have been adopted before exit day. Exit day will, we believe, be 29 March 2019, unless subsequent amendments change it. We assume that there then will be a transition period to the end of 2020. During that time the United Kingdom will not be in the EU institutions and will not be party to any further directives. It therefore makes sense that we would not be party to directives adopted after exit date, during the transition period. For those that have already been adopted, however, there appears to be a period of limbo.

I would be grateful if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, could explain how the Government intend to deal with these 23 directives. Are we simply saying that they do not matter—that somehow, directives agreed before the referendum are fine but we are not quite sure about those agreed later? What sort of certainty does that give to business? If the aim of the Bill is to give legal certainty, we have at least 23 directives, plus others that the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, mentioned, on which there is no certainty. This is an important amendment, and I shall be grateful if the Minister can explain what the Government plan to do with the directives to ensure that, on the day when we leave the European Union, there is certainty. Surely taking back control should include all areas from the point when we leave, following full regulatory alignment on exit day—and surely that needs to include these directives.