EU Withdrawal Bill: this week’s key votes

December 15, 2017 1:08 PM
By Greg Foster
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The EU Withdrawal Bill has been trucking its way through Parliament since July 2017 and is currently in the Committee Stage in the House of Commons - which is the 3rd of 5 stages the bill has to pass in the Commons to become a law.

In short, the bill repeals the European Communities Act of 1972 and then makes a lot of other changes to all of the EU regulation that has entered British Law since that Act passed.

It's a massive bill - that will have huge ramifications for what post-Brexit Britain looks like. And how much power the Government has to change Britain's laws.

It's another opportunity for those of us who want an exit from Brexit to try and bind the Government's hands. It's also a chance to prevent the worst impulses of the extremists in Theresa May's cabinet becoming reality.

This bill is a chance to prevent the worst impulses of the extremists in Theresa May's cabinet becoming reality.

We can also amend the bill to ensure we protect people's jobs, our public services and the economy and to give you the final say on Brexit.

So it's kind of a big deal.

That's part of why the bill is being scrutinised by a "committee of the whole house" - which means that unlike a normal bill, every single MP has a chance to scrutinise and vote on amendments at this stage.

All of this makes for a complicated bit of Parliamentary process!

So far, MPs have spent 12 days, most of those being marathon 8-hour sittings, debating the bill and they've voted on it more than fifty times.

But we're most interested in four key votes - that could change Brexit entirely.

They are amendments 7, 120, 124 and 131. Those amendments would:

  • Amendment 7 - this amendment ensures that Parliament has a vote on the Deal. This is an amendment tabled by Conservative MP Dominic Grieve. It has cross-party support.
  • Amendment 120 - this amendment provides for a Referendum on the final Brexit Deal before we leave the European Union - with a chance to remain if it's a bad deal.
  • Amendment 124 - this amendment ensures that no deal the Government negotiates can take Britain out of the single market.
  • Amendment 131 - The amendment preserves the rights of EU Citizens after Brexit - something Theresa May still hasn't done.

This week, two of those amendments, 7 and 124 were voted on by MPs.

Amendment 124

On Tuesday, MPs voted on Amendment 124 - which would have made sure the UK couldn't leave the Single Market.

Ahead of the vote, thousands of people contacted Jeremy Corbyn to ask him to whip his MPs to vote in favour of it - but unfortunately; they didn't.

They abstained - and whilst 44 Labour MPs and 2 Conservatives rebelled, it wasn't enough to pass the amendment.

Labour have repeatedly voted against amendments that would protect our membership of the single market.

By abstaining on that vote, Labour let down British workers. They let down their young supporters. And they have let down everyone who voted Labour to stop Brexit in June.

It's not the first time this has happened. Labour have repeatedly voted against amendments that would protect our membership of the single market - despite saying publicly (and in their 2017 manifesto) that they would protect our membership of it.

Labour's manifesto claimed that they'd protect the single market, but they've repeatedly voted to not do that.

Amendment 7

In better news, on Wednesday night, MPs voted on Amendment 7 - which guarantees MPs a vote on the final Brexit deal.

This is so vital. Even though in recent weeks, Theresa May has managed to make some progress on actually getting a deal the risk of the UK crashing out of the EU without one is still high - and many in her Cabinet (we're looking at you David Davis) would prefer that option!

Fortunately, this time, the Labour party voted in favour - as did 12 incredibly brave Conservatives.

This was a massive win - and an embarrassing defeat for Theresa May, who refused talks with Conservative rebels that might have avoided it, thinking she had the votes.

But this amendment can still be removed from the bill at later stages - and the Government have indicated that they're planning to try that.

The amendment also only passed by four votes.

The amendment only passed because of the five seats we took from the Conservatives at the General Election.

At the last election, we took five seats from the Conservatives. If we hadn't done that, there's a very real chance that the Government would have won the vote.

It took a broad coalition to win, but without all the hard work of our members & supporters did in April, May and June this year, we'd never have been able to defeat the Government. So thank you. This is your victory, as much as it is anyone else's.

What's next?

There's still another full day of debate on the bill on Wednesday next week - when we're hoping that MPs will pass amendment 120, which will give YOU the final say on the Brexit deal.

Passing that amendment will need a coalition like we helped assemble for last week's vote on amendment 7.

That won't be easy - but many in the Labour and Conservative parties are on our side and with enough public pressure, there's a real chance we can pass it.

If you'd like to help us persuade Jeremy Corbyn's Labour to repeat our victory last week, then sign up below for updates: