European Union (Withdrawal) Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-BrownMain Page: Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Conservative) - The Cotswolds)
“We will scrap the Conservatives’…White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on…the Single Market”
and putting “the economy first”. That was the manifesto on which Labour Members stood only a few months ago. We said that we would scrap this Bill and send it back. I beg Labour colleagues who are thinking about voting with the Government to consider that they stood, only a few months ago, on scrapping the White Paper, and I urge them to stand by the manifesto they stood for.
Some Conservative Members would, like ostriches, like to shove their heads into the sand—they want Brexit on any terms—but they are a minority. I believe that the majority of Conservative Members genuinely want a decent Bill that will aid the transition between our being in the European Union and being out of it.
I am a remainer. Just like most of my constituents, I would love to remain in the European Union—we will make that case—but I am also a democrat. However, being a democrat is not about just handing all powers to the Executive; it is about holding them to account each step of the way.
I have listened to lots of the arguments from Members on both sides of the House about how the Bill could be improved. There is a strategy—a legitimate strategy—of saying, “Let us pass it tonight and amend it in Committee.” However, I think that that is incorrect, because the flaws in the Bill are so huge and fundamental that if we followed that strategy, we would be fiddling with the deckchairs on a sinking ship. Unfortunately, what we must do is to send this Bill back.
I will outline a few areas in which the Bill fundamentally fails to live up to decent democratic principles and restricts the rights of our people. It removes the charter of fundamental rights from UK law. Let us be very clear that that charter provides digital rights, asylum rights, pension rights for LGBT people and safeguards for maternity rights. At the moment, for example, it ensures that a gay couple who marry here in the UK have their marriage recognised elsewhere in Europe.
There is nothing wrong with our Supreme Court, but what better than to have an additional protection? I think that the hon. Gentleman makes a ridiculous argument.
My next point is about safeguards for the current statutory instruments. Much of EU law has been brought into UK law as statutory instruments. Those statutory instruments are underpinned by EU law, which includes an ability to fine Governments for overstepping that law. If EU oversight is removed but the statutory instruments continue to exist, they will be weak to amendment through the negative procedure. That puts people’s rights to things such as TUPE and the working time directive at risk. Clearly, therefore, those statutory instruments should have additional statutory underpinning such that they cannot be removed using the negative procedure.