EU Withdrawal Bill: it ain’t over

2017 is over, but the Great Tory Powergrab is rolling on.

Above: Theresa May and David Davis react to someone saying the word “scrutiny” in the House of Commons.

2017 is over, but the Great Tory Powergrab is rolling on. The EU Withdrawal Bill, which passed through the House of Commons last week, is now in the House of Lords – and there is still time to fight it.

What is the EU Withdrawal Bill and why is it dangerous?

The EU Withdrawal Bill (formerly known as the Great Repeal Bill) claims to just be about ‘doing the admin’ on Brexit. But in reality, it’s the biggest powergrab by an executive in British peacetime history. In short, this legislation will:

  • Give the government the power strip away crucial workers’ rights and environmental protections without even a vote in parliament
  • Undermine our human rights, withdrawing from the Charter of Fundamental Rights
  • Give ministers the power to make additional laws, without consulting parliament, if they decide that it is “urgent” in light of Brexit negotiations
  • Attack consumer protections and food standards
  • Make it more difficult to regulate the financial sector

What has happened so far?

Opposition parties have consistently voted against the Bill as a whole, and MPs from all parties proposed amendments. However, during the initial Commons stage, supposedly “rebel” Tory MPs by and large failed to rebel. So all of the worst bits of the Bill have remained, with one single defeat for the government. The only successful amendment (proposed by Tory MP Dominic Grieve) means that Parliament must have another vote in order for the Withdrawal agreement to come into effect. This is unlikely to mean much in terms of blocking or altering a bad deal, as a majority of MPs are very unlikely to vote against it.

Another Europe is Possible has worked with MPs throughout the process, producing briefings and amendments and doing stunts.

What’s happening now?

The EU Withdrawal Bill is now in the House of Lords, having been passed by the House of Commons on January 17th. Soon (after January 30th, we have no exact date yet) the Lords will have the opportunity to amend the Bill. The government doesn’t have a majority here, so more amendments are likely to pass – for instance on retaining the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

When these Lords amendments are made, they will go back to the House of Commons and MPs will have to vote on them again. At that stage, it’s vital that every possible bit of pressure is brought to bear on MPs.

You might think that it’s weird for progressives to be relying on the House of Lords to save democracy. So do we.

What can we do?

For now, we are waiting for the Lords to propose and vote on amendments. There is relatively little that members of the public can do to lobby Lords – they don’t have constituents and aren’t elected. The main thing is that when the amendments return to the House of Commons, MPs feel the heat.

So, here’s 3 things you can do:

  1. Share this update on social media – the more people know what is happening, the more action can take place when the crunch moment comes.
  2. Write to you MP now and ask them to commit to upholding positive Lords amendments. You can use our template letter here.
  3. Keep in touch with Another Europe – make sure that you’re signed up to our email list. We’ll be pushing out a much bigger public campaign when the amendments return to the Commons after January.

23rd January 2018