Statement on the EU Withdrawal Bill

There were important votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill on 12 and 13 June 2018. These votes have come at time when the negotiations have stalled, the Cabinet remains split over two unworkable customs options and there has been yet another Ministerial resignation.

I wrote a letter to the Speaker and the Serjeant at Arms on 6 June 2018 as I was concerned that there would be 12 hours of continuous debate on 12 June 2018 on amendments made by the House of Lords to the EU Withdrawal Bill. The Government then extended the debate to two days. Labour voted against the programme motion as the House should have had more time to debate this important Bill.

‘Meaningful vote’

Labour has repeatedly emphasised that Parliament should have a ‘meaningful’ vote on the terms of any withdrawal agreement the Prime Minister reaches with the EU. I voted to support Lords Amendment 19 which would have ensured that Parliament has a truly meaningful vote on any draft withdrawal agreement. In the event of no deal being reached, the amendment would have meant that Parliaments decides what happens next. The vote was lost with: Ayes: 324, Noes: 298

Single Market

It is vital that any final Brexit agreement delivers a strong relationship with the Single Market and that there is no drop in rights, standards or our ability to trade freely in services after we leave the EU. Labour has been clear that we will not support any Brexit deal that fails to deliver that and that the Government needs to do far more to prioritise the benefits of the Single Market.

I supported a Labour amendment tabled by Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer, which would have required the Government to negotiate a new UK-EU Single Market agreement that would protect jobs, the economy and rights.

This amendment, which has also been tabled to the Customs Bill and Trade Bill, would have required the Government to negotiate:
• Full access to the Single Market
• No new impediments to trade
• Common rights, standards and protections as a minimum
• Underpinned by shared institution and regulations

Rather than binding the UK to follow the EEA route, this amendment set out a framework for a close future relationship with the EU and would have ensured that Brexit does not lead to a race to the bottom on rights or to new barriers for UK businesses. The vote was lost with: Ayes: 240, Noes: 322.

Customs Union

Labour supports negotiating a new comprehensive customs union with the EU as this is the best way to ensure there are no tariffs or customs checks with the EU, to support our manufacturing industry, and taken alongside Labour’s amendment on a new UK-EU Single Market agreement, it provides a viable solution to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland.

I voted to support Lords Amendment 1 which would have prevented the repeal of the 1972 act bringing the UK into the EU unless the government lays out plans to negotiate a continued customs union after Brexit. The vote was lost with: Ayes: 326, Noes: 296.

Environmental protections

Labour sought to retain multiple amendments passed in the House of Lords that would have placed a statutory duty on the Government to introduce legislation which establishes an agency for protecting the environment with the same powers currently held by the EU Commission and which gives effect to the EU’s environmental principles.

I voted to support Lords Amendment 3 which would have maintained EU environmental protections in domestic law with a body to enforce compliance. The vote was lost with: Ayes: 320, Noes: 296.

The Bill will now go to the House of Lords which will consider the amendments and then the Bill will return to the House of Commons which will either accept or reject the Lords amendments.