The Brexit Bill: My response

The government’s determination to push the European Union (Notice of Withdrawal) Bill through the Commons with such limited time for debate, without thorough consideration of the many implications of such a momentous decision, without presenting a White Paper worthy of the name, without spelling out the choices Britain itself has to make (and costing them), and by doggedly voting en bloc against every single amendment proposed, is a serious affront to the parliamentary sovereignty that they claimed to hold dear.

Having initially tried to exclude the triggering of Article 50 from proper parliamentary process and, when challenged in the courts, wasting almost three months and much money appealing the decision, Theresa May is doing everything she can to meet her arbitrarily imposed deadline of March 31st, recently revised to March 9th so as to avoid an embarrassing clash with 60th anniversary celebrations of the Treaty of Rome.

Proving that she can deliver this, whatever the cost and whatever the consequences, has become her overriding objective, and she is oblivious to the calls for a more measured and considered approach. With the zeal of a convert – remember she was campaigning to Remain until June 23rd – she has closed her ears to anything but the most Brextreme arguments of the Tory right.

MPs of all parties have rightly raised concerns over the economy, jobs, security, trade, research, health, consumer protection, the environment and workers’ rights and the implications for the future relationships between the countries of the United Kingdom, as well as the tricky problem of the land border on the island of Ireland. There have been some impassioned speeches asking questions about issues that are not being given proper consideration, the disproportionate impact on women, the serious threat to working conditions, the inevitable degradation of public services if we become an aggressive low tax competitor, the likely annihilation of world leading nuclear research within Euratom. And most disgracefully of all, the refusal to offer any degree of stability, hope or basic compassion to the three million European citizens who have made the UK their home, built their families and their lives here, paid their taxes and are now reduced to human bargaining chips.

Over the past three days these valid considerations have been dismissed as remoaning, refighting the referendum and attempts to defy ‘the will of the people’. Dozens of Conservative MPs who campaigned for months to remain last year, with the honorable exception of Ken Clarke, have obediently trooped through the lobby against their consciences, pathetically obedient to their new hard right Brexiteer masters to vote against amendments that would have prevented damage to the country and their constituents’ lives.

The Bill will now move to the House of Lords, who will not block it, but who may attach amendments before it is returned to the Commons. Not for the first time since the general election in 2015, we will be relying on their good sense to provide a strong opposition to the hard right of the Conservative party who are strengthening their grip on the government. Above all, they must provide for a meaningful vote in two years on the Brexit deal that goes beyond the ‘’take it or leave it” choice May has offered MPs, providing a chance to consider the actual outcome with the details spelled out, and, if necessary, to blow the whistle before disaster hits.

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  1. Above is true, but fails to mention the abject failure of Jeremy Corbyn and the PLP to ensure there is proper oversight and just nod along. When it all goes pearshape, and it will, the population will ask how this came to pass, and why wasn’t it questioned. That the Lib Dems are now the opposition, as Labour’s poll numbers plumb untold depths.

  2. Thank you, Richard Corbett, for a well reasoned response that upholds the democratic values that are under such attack at present, and the common decency that until recently most of us took for granted.

  3. Thank you Richard Corbett. The speed with which the turncoat MP’s (we know who you are!) have ignored all suggested amendments and embraced Brexit is astounding and disgraceful. Shame on them they didn’t have the moral fibre to stand up to the biggest u-turner of all, the PM. It’s indicative of extreme short-sightedness and sheer disrespect to 48% of the population, over an issue which is so fundamental.

  4. Come election time, when a national meltdown will be developing with embarrassing clarity, hundreds of pro-Remain politicians will need to justify their support for Brexit in suppression of their personal conviction that it was a terrible mistake. Once the economic pain is experienced in the flesh, the ‘will of the people’ will be long forgotten and MPs will be called to account.

    Labour’s unquestioning dedication to that wafer thin majority vote in a purely advisory, legally impotent, non-binding referendum looks a lot more like cowardice than integrity. A genuinely binding referendum would have had the safeguard of a supermajority threshold for an issue of such importance. Or, to use Theresa’s weird language: advisory means advisory … and you can’t change a pig into a duck by calling it another name. For a majority of Labour supporters and the 48% of remain voters, truth and representative democracy are dead in the water.

    No politicians will be thanked for trashing the economy, killing the NHS, splitting the union and abandoning Britain’s place on the world stage. The Liberal Democrats have a wiser eye to this disassembling future and are unashamedly pro-EU, seeking a referendum on the negotiated deal with the option to remain. Their contrarian stance will appear more and more rational as this sorry disaster unfolds. The ‘will of the people’ can change.

  5. Thank you very much for showing that at least some MPs have a grasp of the wider issues of Brexit without parliamentary scrutiny. I was beginning to despair but you give me hope.

  6. But where does this “Glorious revolution” lead “Global Britain” ? A leap in the dark, “un saut dans le vide”, “a voyage to the past” ? Did the average “leave” voter really intend to embark on such a swiftian and perilous journey ? Its request for a little more comfort and equality has been diverted, manipulated, externalized. The ennemy is “foreign” not domestic. The British system is OK . Let’s just get free of the EU corset and sail towards “grand large”. The US model is best for us – euh, I mean for Britain of course. JGGIRAUD

  7. Well put Sir, I only hope that the Lords show a little more backbone and courage in their deliberations next week. There has to be some “Checks and Balances” applied to this Train Crash of a #Brexitshambles. I would have prefered that the train had not left the station but can we at least have someone on board applying the emergency brake!

  8. I wonder whether impending EU regulation of tax-havens and off-shoring might have had an influence on May and her numpty band?

  9. The Brexit battle bus clearly shows the “Will of the People” involved adequate funding of our National Health Service.
    Instead of arranging urgent funding of the NHS, particularly for accident and emergency services and cancelled operations the Government have given priority to other projects.
    Might the House of Lords be asked to conduct a public consultation to determine the extent that the alleged will of the people was based on inadequate choice, misinformation, and insufficient majority and consequences of the changes involved. (e.g UK citizens in retirement in other EU countries)
    The fear of immigration issues from Europe was over stressed in relation to the proportion of immigrants between the EU and the rest of the world.

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