5 things you need to know about the Withdrawal Bill

Malene Bratlie from the Repeal Bill Alliance blogs for Unlock Democracy about what you need to know about the Withdrawal Bill as it heads out of the House of Commons and into the House of Lords. 

1. The Government has made some concessions

The Government has put forward some it’s own changes to the bill. Although these are technical, others are in key areas where we’ve been campaigning for change - like putting restrictions on some of the sweeping Henry VIII powers in the bill.

2. But we don’t think those go far enough

As always, the devil is in the detail. Our concerns haven’t been put to bed by the changes made to the bill so far. We’re worried that the Government will still be able to make sweeping changes to our rights and regulations without Parliament having a say.

Along with 20 other organisations, Unlock Democracy signed the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s  open letter on the importance of not creating a “human rights hole”.

The Government also delayed its own promise to put in place greater protections for the devolved settlements. It’s now likely that protections for the devolved nations - if any - will only be brought forward in the House of Lords.

3. In particular, the checks on delegated powers don't go far enough

The Government accepted amendments which will set up a new committee to deal with which pieces of delegated legislation need detailed scrutiny by MPs. However, as we have previously pointed out the new committee does little to address the existing, inadequate system of scrutinising statutory instruments.

As the new committee is only advisory, the government doesn’t have to follow through on its recommendations. Nor does the amendments seek to go beyond the temporary measure restricted only to the Withdrawal Bill, which ultimately prompts questions about how delegated legislation in the seven other Brexit bills will be scrutinised. That the Government has chosen a cop-out solution suggests there's all the more reason the keep the pressure up when it comes to proper scrutiny of delegated legislation.

4. After Third reading in the Commons, it’s onto the Lords, where we expect peers to put up a fight

The bill is likely to reach the Lords at the end of January, where it is expected that peers will put up a fight. Many peers have voiced concerns about the bill already and expressed that they will not accept being bullied by the ‘strong-arm tactics’ of Tory whips when it comes to voting on Brexit-related issues.

5. Everything is still left to play for

There is massive room for improvement when it comes to the Withdrawal Bill. We still need to limit the unchecked power the government wants to hand itself, make sure rights and regulations are ‘copied and pasted’ as promised not changed behind closed doors, and the devolution settlements are protected.

Thank you to all supporters who have called, emailed or tweeted at their MPs and asked them to stop the power grab, the voices of campaigners has been absolutely vital. We’ll continue working tirelessly to convince MPs that granting ministers astonishingly wide powers and undermining our rights is not what post-Brexit Britain should look like.