by Steve Beasant on 4 September, 2017
The Liberal Democrats have called on eurosceptic MPs to back amendments to the EU withdrawal bill to stop it from “driving a coach and horses through parliamentary sovereignty.”
Back in January 2016 a group of pro-Brexit MPs wrote a joint letter calling for parliamentary sovereignty to be prioritised in the Brexit negotiations.
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake has written personally to all 21 of those who are still MPs, warning them it would be hypocritical not to back amendments protecting parliament’s ability to properly scrutinise legislation.
Commenting, Tom Brake MP said:
“For years Brexiteers have told us how much they care about parliamentary sovereignty. Now is their chance to prove it.
“As it stands, this bill would drive a coach and horses through parliamentary sovereignty, giving the government sweeping powers to rewrite whole swathes of British law.
“MPs from all parties must resist this unprecedented power grab and ensure any future policy changes are agreed by Parliament, from environmental protections to employment law.
“We may disagree on Europe, but surely eurosceptics can agree that giving such draconian powers to the executive would be deeply damaging to British democracy.”
Full text of Tom‘s letter is below
I am writing to you regarding the European Union Withdrawal Bill.
I am sure that we are in agreement that this Bill is of the utmost importance for the future of the UK and its relationship with the European Union. This Bill will affect a wide range of policy areas and lead to the incorporation of hundreds of pieces of EU law into UK law.
It is therefore imperative that Parliament is given full sovereignty and scrutiny over this process. This opinion is widely supported, with the Law Society stating that the Bill ‘must respect parliament’s role in making and approving changes to UK law’ and Anand Menon, Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at King’s College London, stating that the Bill ‘isn’t simply cut and paste’ for transferring EU laws to UK law.
You may remember the letter you co-wrote and signed in the Daily Telegraph on 31st January 2016 regarding parliamentary sovereignty. In this letter you stated, ‘Whatever one’s views on the EU debate, many will agree that parliamentary sovereignty should be the key focus in any renegotiations.’ I am certain therefore that you will agree with me that parliamentary sovereignty should be the key focus also when considering a Bill of such importance to our future outside the EU. To deny the importance of parliamentary sovereignty in relation to this Bill would be hypocritical and inconsistent with your previous stance.
This Bill gives unprecedented powers to the Executive to make policy changes which would normally require primary legislation. It provides little or no scrutiny of hundreds of EU laws that will be incorporated into UK laws by way of secondary legislation. It even grants powers in the Bill to modify the Act. Put simply, this Bill, which is so riddled with legal uncertainty and draconian powers, drives a coach and horses through parliamentary sovereignty.
Therefore I hope that you will join me, if not in opposing the Bill, at least in seeking to moderate its more extreme aspects and impacts on parliamentary sovereignty.
Specifically, will you support amendments which a) require government from the outset to draft primary legislation to achieve any policy changes, b) mandate the use of the super affirmative procedure for any secondary legislation which does anything other than simply transpose EU law into UK law and c) block powers in the Bill which grant the Government what can only be described as emergency powers to legislate for any crucial omissions in the original legislation?
I look forward to hearing your concerns about the EU Withdrawal Bill, your proposed course of action and your support for these amendments.
Tom Brake MP
Lib Dem Brexit Spokesman
The letter from January 2016 (published in The Telegraph) and a list of signatories is below
SIR – Whatever one’s views on the EU debate, many will agree that parliamentary sovereignty should be the key focus in any renegotiations. It goes to the heart of our relationship with the EU, covering such areas as the primacy of our domestic laws, control of our borders and the setting of business regulation.
We are disappointed that the Government’s renegotiations are not addressing this. We therefore look forward to the forthcoming House of Commons debate, on February 4, and hope the Prime Minister will personally take the opportunity to respond for the Government.
John Baron MP (Con)
Peter Bone MP (Con)
Douglas Carswell MP (Ukip)
Sir William Cash MP (Con)
Richard Drax MP (Con)
Mary Glindon MP (Lab)
Roger Godsiff MP (Lab)
Gordon Henderson MP (Con)
Kate Hoey MP (Lab)
Philip Hollobone MP (Con)
Adam Holloway MP (Con)
Sir Gerald Howarth MP (Con)
Stewart Jackson MP (Con)
Bernard Jenkin MP (Con)
David Jones MP (Con)
Julian Lewis MP (Con)
Jack Lopresti MP (Con)
Craig Mackinlay MP (Con)
Andrew Rosindell MP (Con)
Graham Stringer MP (Lab)
Nigel Dodds MP (DUP)