With the referendum result being won by the majority who voted to leave the EU, and with 492 out of 650 MPs voting to trigger Article 50 earlier this year, we are now in to the mechanics of leaving the EU and negotiating a new relationship with our EU partners and other countries across the world.
When serving as a member of the House of Commons’ Procedure Committee, I spent time with constitutional experts assessing how to ensure that all of the EU legislation and decisions which had been brought in to our own laws, and followed by our courts, would apply following Britain’s departure from the EU.
To retain and move this entire body of laws and rules, and there will be thousands of them, the Government has agreed with the Committee’s recommendation and introduced the EU Withdrawal Bill. Its title is correct in that the UK is withdrawing from the UK. However, when it comes to the job of retaining and moving the EU rights and laws which will apply to our citizens, and will continue to apply on the day we have left the EU, it would be better off being called the Retention Bill.
There will be some readers who will want us to start dismantling EU laws at the same time as we negotiate our exit. Not only would this not be unlawful, and therefore held up in the courts, it would lead to legislative chaos and uncertainty. If you voted to leave then you have delivered this new opportunity for the country. Surely you want to prove it can be done in an orderly and successful manner? If, like me, you voted to remain, I hope you will accept that we are leaving and, therefore, help build something new, make a success of it and be positive for the sake of our country. If unlike me, you voted to remain and simply cannot accept the outcome, then you will not want this bill enacted because it will move us further along the path of leaving.
These opinions, all perfectly understandable, are to be found in the House of Commons as well. Out of the 650 MPs, the 150 who voted against Article 50 at least set their stall out early and refuse to countenance us leaving. Of the 498 MPs who did trigger Article 50, some refused to vote for the EU Withdrawal Bill this week because, so they say, it gives too much power to Government to decide how to bring these laws over to the UK statute book. Having read the bill, I agree that some of the drafting needs work to ensure Parliament is sovereign. However, this is for the next stage of the bill, where we go through it line by line in the House of Commons.
I have already made my drafting submissions and the Government appears ready to amend the bill and act to give Parliament more powers. Others who voted against the bill, but voted to trigger Article 50, need to explain why they reluctantly accepted that we are leaving the EU, but vote against a bill which will preserve all of the rights and laws delivered to the UK by the EU. If they had an alternative to do so then it would make sense of their position. No alternative was outlined, just the customary picking at holes. This gives the impression, as I said in my speech to the House on Monday, that these MPs are playing politics on a matter where it has to be in everyone’s interest, regardless of prior opinions, that we make a success of leaving the EU and deliver certainty and a new direction for our country. This is what drove my vote in support of the EU Withdrawal Bill.