Worcester MP and Department for Exiting the European Union Minister Robin Walker has welcomed the progress made on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, as the historic legislation cleared the committee stage in the Commons before Christmas.
The Bill will transfer EU law into UK law at the point of the UK’s departure from the EU, ensuring that the UK has a functioning statute book when it leaves the EU and providing the maximum amount of certainty and continuity as the UK takes back control of its laws. Once the UK has left the EU in March 2019, only Parliament will be able to make new laws or change existing ones, as the power that allowed the EU to do so through the European Communities Act will be removed.
After eight days of debate in the Commons, during which hundreds of amendments were debated and most were withdrawn, the Withdrawal Bill has passed to the report stage with the Government winning 42 out of 43 votes on proposed amendments. The one vote which was lost by a narrow margin is on a technical matter which will not change the main effect of the Bill. The Government has already committed to holding a vote on the final deal in parliament as soon as possible following the conclusion of negotiations. The amendment that was passed means that a law will need to be voted on before some powers in the bill can be used, but the Government has already committed to bringing forward legislation to enable this in the form of the Withdrawal and Implementation Bill. Robin was present on the Government frontbench throughout the committee stage alongside Ministerial colleagues to respond to the questions and concerns of MPs from across the House.
Throughout committee stage, the Government listened and responded to constructive challenges to the Bill from all sides of the House. Amendments tabled by the Government included those to set a single exit day in the Bill and to provide extra information about equalities impacts and the changes being made to retained EU law under the powers in the Bill. A right-by-right analysis of the charter of fundamental rights was published and Ministers have made clear that they are willing to look again at the detail of how the Bill deals with general principles to ensure that the Government’s approach remains consistent with its desire to command the support of Parliament.
The news follows last week’s announcement by the European Council that sufficient progress has been made for negotiations between the UK and EU to move to phase two in the New Year, with agreement having been reached on citizens’ rights, Northern Ireland and the financial settlement.
Speaking after the Bill’s final day of debate last Wednesday, Robin said:
“I am pleased that the Withdrawal Bill, which is such a vital piece of legislation in ensuring we deliver a smooth and orderly transition out of the EU, has progressed through committee stage with support from across the House. I would like to thank colleagues on all sides of the debate for their diligent and well-informed scrutiny, which has resulted in a strong and improved Bill being taken forward to report stage.”
“The Bill provides certainty and continuity for businesses and individuals alike, and should unite those on both sides of the debate. The approach we have taken of converting EU law into domestic law maximises certainty and stability while ensuring Parliament is sovereign. There is also certainty regarding our exit date – 29th March 2019 – which delivers on the result of last year’s referendum and the mandate of Parliament when it voted to trigger Article 50. Following further debate and discussion a compromise has been reached enabling the Government to amend this date with the approval of Parliament in the exceptional circumstances of ongoing negotiations.”
“I am also glad that sufficient progress has now been agreed in the negotiations and that in 2018 we will be able to not only negotiate on the terms of our withdrawal but also on transition and the future relationship between the UK and the EU. I look forward to continuing the Government’s work in the New Year during the report stage where further constructive debate will be had, and delivering on the referendum result in a way that brings together people on all sides of the debate in the best interests of our whole United Kingdom.”
Notes to editors
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For Robin’s previous statements on the Withdrawal Bill, see: