At the time of writing we are about to start eight days of debate of the European Union Withdrawal Bill and it has become a very technical and weighty piece of legislation. At this stage of the passage of a Bill, MPs table amendments which can range from a slight tweak in the detail to a dramatic alteration of the overall effect. There are currently 470 amendments tabled for the EU Bill put forward from all sides of the House of Commons.
Given this complexity I am impressed by the knowledge shown by many Somerset residents in my mailbag although I think a few may have had a little help from lobbying groups such as Friends of the Earth. I am working through these requests on specific amendments but I would say that in general it is still to our advantage to have as few ways of restricting our negotiating position with the EU as possible. In a way the level of debate and legal discourse is very welcome. For too long everyone has spoken about the importance of getting the detail right on the best possible deal whilst few have actually got past the rhetoric stage.
I have accepted an invitation to join the European Scrutiny Committee which will have an important and, I hope, helpful role to play over the coming months. In particular I will focus on trade and defence issues – of immediate relevance is how we will relate to the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) defence framework being drawn up in the EU. As with many areas our best position will be close and mutually beneficial cooperation but on our own terms.
Whilst I am encouraged that we are working through the proper and relevant process, what I would like to call out at this stage are those politicians who are seeking to amend the Bill to the point that we may as well stay in the EU. There are amendments calling for freedom of movement, supremacy of the EU courts and staying in the customs union as a starting point for negotiations. Not only is this a ridiculous way to tie the hands of our negotiating team but I am fairly certain it’s not what people voted for in the Referendum.
Although events in Westminster will be dominated by Brexit for some time, it is not the case that everything else has come to a standstill. Perhaps leading the charge to sense new opportunity is Michael Gove at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, this week announcing plans to set up independent body that would hold Government to account for upholding environmental standards after we leave the EU. This is just one area in which we need not accept the EU as gold standard but can push for higher achievement on the global stage.
As always, if you would like to get in touch about these issues, if I can be of any help or if you would like to book an appointment at one of my regular advice surgeries, please do call 01935314321 or email firstname.lastname@example.org