Guest column: Government’s EU bill is not fit for purpose

Sir Kevin Barron MP
Sir Kevin Barron MP

Over the last six weeks we have been voting on the European Union (EU) Withdrawal Bill. Over the last six weeks we have been voting on the European Union (EU) Withdrawal Bill.

This bill is not about whether we leave the EU — that was settled by the referendum last year.

The bill is instead about Parliament’s role in the withdrawal process and how we ensure that our legal system is maintained and that vital rights and protections are safeguarded.

It is therefore crucial that the Government gets this important legislation right.

Unfortunately, I do not consider the bill fit for purpose as it currently stands.

I feel it would put huge and unaccountable power into the hands of Government ministers, sideline Parliament on major decisions and put crucial rights and protections at risk.

It would also undermine and introduce restrictions on devolved administrations rather than lead to the wider devolution of power we need.

I am therefore supporting amendments aimed at repairing and removing the bill’s worst aspects as I see it as it progresses through Parliament.

In the face of a potential defeat in the Commons, the Government announced that it will bring forward a separate bill to allow Parliament to scrutinise and approve the final EU withdrawal deal.

While this was certainly a climb down by the Government, I believe it must go even further and confirm that Parliament will get a vote if there is no deal to approve.

So far, I have voted for amendments to protect workers’ rights, safeguard environmental and animal welfare standards, legislate for strong transitional arrangements, and to bring the Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law.

I have also voted to ensure that devolved governments are not sidelined, and to guarantee Parliamentary oversight of the financial settlement.

Disappointingly, the Government rejected these amendments and they were defeated.

I also supported further amendments to the bill that seek to restrict the use of ‘Henry VIII’ powers.

While the Government has agreed to set up a Parliamentary committee to monitor the conversion of EU law into UK law, I do not believe this goes far enough.

I will also be seeking to ensure that Parliament has the power to set the ‘exit day’ in the bill.

This would give Parliament control over the length and basic terms of transitional arrangements and the ability to start the clock on the sunset clauses of powers given to ministers in the bill.

I hope the Government will listen carefully to the points that have been raised about its bill, both inside and outside of Parliament.

I hope all my constituents have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy spending time with your family and friends.