The eighth, and final, day of consideration of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill in Committee took place on 20 December.
The House considered:
Political shenanigans going into the final day of Committee stage centred around whether there would be another Tory rebellion over the Government’s Amendment 381 to Clause 14 (interpretation), to specify the time and date of ‘exit day’ on the face of the Bill.
To head off a second backbench rebellion, the Government accepted a second amendment (Amendment 400) tabled by Tory backbench MPs to allow ministers to use delegated powers to change the time and date of exit day if the UK ended up leaving the EU on a different date to the one specified. With that concession made, the Government won the vote on its own amendment 319 to 294.
Labour are just as divided over Brexit. New Clause 13 was tabled by Chris Leslie, Labour, to try to ensure that provisions allowing the UK to stay in the Customs Union, as set out in the European Communities Act 1972 but set to be repealed by the Bill, would be enacted ahead of exit day. But the Labour frontbench whipped their MPs to abstain from voting for Leslie’s New Clause – presumably, in line with Labour’s official (but largely incomprehensible) policy that it wants the benefits of the customs union without actually being a member. So, despite 62 Labour MPs defying the whip and Conservative MPs Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry voting in favour, Leslie’s New Clause was defeated.
The Government also defeated a number of other New Clauses and amendments:
A couple of further points.
First, the part of the Day 8 debate which looked at Clause 13 and Schedule 5 contained plenty of fodder for future Pepper v Hart submissions (for non-lawyers, that’s using Parliamentary debates to inform what a statute means) in respect of how the courts are to interpret retained and transposed EU law, including on the status of the rather lengthy recitals which form part of EU Regulations and Directives.
Second, the Government gave the following commitment summarising its position on the ‘meaningful vote’ to be given to Parliament, following last week’s Tory rebellion (ie Amendment 7):
Quite how all these various votes will play out in 2018 is anyone’s guess! Thank you for reading the blog in 2017, best wishes for the festive season, and see you in 2018 (when some or all of these predictions may come true …)