Last week, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill completed its remaining stages (Report Stage and Third reading) in the House of Commons, and moved to the House of Lords. It had its First reading in the Lords on 18 January, with Second reading (a general debate on all aspects of the Bill) scheduled for 30 and 31 January.
This (roughly) halfway point in the Bill’s journey is a good time to look, in overview, at how the Bill has changed so far. A ‘tracked changes’ version of the Bill, showing the changes made in the Commons, is here – and as you can see, there are not a lot of changes. The Bill, as introduced in the Lords (ie a ‘clean’ version), is here.
It is worth recalling that the SSExEU, at Second reading, indicated that he was open to modifying the Bill. He said he would:
And he clearly feels that the Government has done so. At Third Reading, he summarised how the Bill had been shaped during its Commons stages:
Keir Starmer, Shadow SSExEU had a different view. He said:
Are Labour right? Below, we set out Labour’s six ‘serious defects’, followed by a summary of what the Government has done in respect of each (you can form your own judgment as to adequacy…):
During the Report Stage debate, Ken Clarke also made some fairly strong remarks about the passage of the Bill through the Commons, which are worth setting out in full:
Of course, the Government’s response to accusation of ‘a lack of substance’ on the future trade relationship and membership of the single market/customs union would be that these are not matters relevant to the Bill – it is about preparing the UK’s statute book for Brexit. On the other hand, we agree with the Father of the House about the lack of movement on some of the technical questions, such as the status of transposed EU law (discussed in more detail here). We suggest that the Lords (which contains a lot of lawyers) will get their teeth into the detail of these provisions rather more than MPs did.
But the Lords should not expect the Government simply to ‘roll over’. John Redwood commented:
Mr Redwood (unsurprisingly perhaps given his stance) is clearly drawing a line in the sand, whether on behalf of the Government or not is unclear – the unelected Chamber should respect the form of the Bill which the elected Chamber has passed.