Labour set to order MPs to vote against Brexit Repeal Bill

‘As democrats we cannot vote for a bill that unamended would let government ministers grab powers from Parliament to slash people’s rights at work and reduce protection for consumers and the environment,’ the party said in a statement

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 05 September 2017 15:03
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It comes after Labour shifted its position on Brexit in recent weeks, calling for continued participation in the EU customs union and single market during any transition period
It comes after Labour shifted its position on Brexit in recent weeks, calling for continued participation in the EU customs union and single market during any transition period

Labour is set to order its MPs to vote against the Government’s Brexit Repeal Bill, a meeting of the party’s senior figures has agreed.

The Independent understands that if key amendments to the Repeal Bill fail in the Commons then the party will vote against the legislation next week – forcing the Prime Minister to rely on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party.

But even with opposition to the bill from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP the legislation is predicted to pass its first parliamentary hurdle as no Tory MPs are currently planning to vote against the Government.

It comes after Labour shifted its position on Brexit in recent weeks, calling for continued participation in the EU customs union and single market during any transition period. The Government has made clear Britain will leave both in March 2019 – the deadline for the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations.

Concerns have also been raised regarding the amount of power given to the executive as ministers are able to use so-called Henry VIII clauses to change legislation without the usual parliamentary scrutiny.

Speaking after Labour’s first meeting of the Shadow Cabinet following the parliamentary recess, a Labour spokesperson added: “Labour fully respects the democratic decision to leave the European Union, voted to trigger Article 50 and backs a jobs-first Brexit with full tariff-free access to the European single market.

“But as democrats we cannot vote for a bill that unamended would let government ministers grab powers from Parliament to slash people’s rights at work and reduce protection for consumers and the environment.”

“Parliament has already voted to leave the European Union. But the Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill would allow Conservative ministers to set vital terms on a whim, including of Britain’s exit payment, without democratic scrutiny.

“Nobody voted in last year’s referendum to give this Conservative Government sweeping powers to change laws by the back door. The slogan of the Leave campaign was about people taking back control and restoring powers to Parliament.

“This power-grab bill would do the opposite. It would allow the Government to seize control from the Parliament that the British people have just elected.”

Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, however, claimed that Labour was behaving in an “irresponsible” manner and risked creating a “legal vacuum” with its opposition to the Repeal Bill, which will copy and paste existing EU laws onto the UK statute book in March 2019 when Britain leaves the bloc.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Mr Grayling added: “What this bill will actually do is ensure there is not a legal cliff-edge when we leave the EU. We have 40 years of European law on the statute books.

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“You can’t have a situation where, when we leave, there is a complete legal vacuum, so we are taking the existing EU laws, putting them into UK law. This Government and future governments will be free to modify as they see fit.”

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman, has previously echoed Labour’s position, insisting the party “will fight to fix this bill” and, “if nothing is changed we will vote against it at second reading”.

Parliamentary debate over the bill will begin in the Commons on Thursday and votes will take place next Monday.

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