Political Headwinds For Brexit?

Political Headwinds For Brexit?

In order to avoid a legal vacuum, the government is attempting to get a bill through parliament which would essentially subsume all EU law currently on the UK statute into British law, removing references to EU institutions and the ECJ. However, the devil is in the detail. One power which the bill bestows on ministers would be the nearly unfettered right to change laws under the doctrine of “secondary legislation”, requiring little or no further parliamentary scrutiny. Critics also claim that some powers devolved to regional assemblies could revert to central government under the bill. Government suffered a major commons defeat when the House backed the Grieve amendment which requires parliament to approve any Brexit deal via a separate act of parliament before it can be implemented.

The legislation is currently “in another place” being scrutinised by the Lords who also have the right to suggest amendments to the bill. On Wednesday, the Government lost two votes in the Lords on amendments calling for it to make a statement on the steps it has taken to procure membership of a or the customs union (quite mild really, but passed with an emphatic majority of 123). A second amendment constraining the use of secondary legislation to reduce existing EU rights after Brexit (majority 97).

There is increasing pressure on the government to commit to remaining in a/the customs union with the EU which is imperative to aid “frictionless trade” and obviate the need for a hard border in Ireland. Brexiters resist this because they fear it would curtail the UK’s ability to forge free trade agreements with non-EU countries. However, in the aftermath of the Lords defeat, a group of MPs including 10 select committee members have tabled a motion aimed at forcing a vote on the customs union issue. Whilst this initiative has no teeth since it cannot force the government to act, it may provide a show of support which could induce the government to change tack. The issue of continued membership of such a union could be forced on the government (subsequently) via amendments when a bills goes through parliament related to trade and customs. Any concession by the government on this risks the wrath of hardcore Brexiteers in the Conservative party which could precipitate a leadership challenge to Mrs May.

The week began with a cross-party group of MPs endorsing a campaign by various remain supporting movements (acting together) to call for a “People’s Vote” on the final Brexit deal which would give the public the chance to endorse the deal or reject it and remain in the EU. The People’s Vote organisers are at pains to state that this would not constitute a second referendum which is surely a case of semantics. The justification for the move is that the public had no idea (nobody did) of the shape that Brexit would take and having narrowly endorsed a decision to leave the EU on the basis of an advisory referendum, they should have the chance to see how that deal matches up against the promises that led to the leave majority.

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