If Henry VIII was buried under a car park, they'd dig up his remains only to discover a skeletal hand holding a document labelled: 'My Legacy to Brexitland'. Have we really come nearly 500 years just to go backwards? It appears we have.
MPs debated the crucial EU Withdrawal Bill until past midnight into Tuesday morning, with the bill eventually passed at its final reading by 17 votes. Theresa May has said the attempt to transpose thousands of EU laws and regulations into British law is vital to avoid a legal "cliff edge" when the UK leaves the EU.
The Prime Minister was reliant on all Conservative MPs, along with her £100m a time DUP rearguard, given the lack of a Conservative majority. Some Tory MPs voiced concerns about the legislation during the debate and said they would need concessions to be made before they would vote it through at the next stage, scheduled for October. Although at this point there is still the chance that the House of Lords will attempt to block last night's vote.
In a statement following the vote, the PM said: "Earlier this morning Parliament took a historic decision to back the will of the British people and vote for a bill which gives certainty and clarity ahead of our withdrawal from the European Union. Although there is more to do, this decision means we can move on with negotiations with solid foundations and we continue to encourage MPs from all parts of the UK to work together in support of this vital piece of legislation."
Labour MP Chris Bryant claimed the bill was "pernicious and dangerous" and something that "Erdogan, Madura and Putin would be proud of". Conservative MPs who voiced concerns included Bob Neill, chair of the Commons' Justice Committee, who said the powers being granted to the Government went beyond what is "acceptable or necessary". Meanwhile former chancellor Ken Clarke warned his party colleagues that "sweeping powers'' could be abused by a future Labour government to amend legislation. And Dr Sarah Wollaston said she would support her party, but only in the "expectation that they will support sensible amendments" down the line.
The amendment was defeated by 318 votes to 290, at division 14, and then 318 to 301 at division 15 guaranteeing 64 hours of debate over eight days. To see who voted for or against, open the blue link - https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/ . The Noes were also secured support from SNP and Lib Dem MPs. Former Europe minister Caroline Flint, whose Don Valley constituency voted heavily for Leave, said Labour risked appearing to want to "thwart the result of the EU referendum". She was heckled by Labour Remainers after the vote. Caroline duly abstained in the crucial div 14 vote. Frank Field, a Leave-supporting Labour MP, hit out at his own colleagues, calling them "wolves in sheep's clothing" for opposing the bill and voted 'aye' at the div 14 sitting. Keir Starmer, Labour's shadow Brexit secretary, called the vote a "deeply disappointing result" which "leaves rights unprotected, it silences Parliament on key decisions and undermines the devolution settlement". Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson, said it was a "dark day for the for the mother of parliaments...the Liberal Democrats will fight to amend the bill in Committee to stop this affront to democracy".
Look again at the prime minister's statement. Look at the bit in italics: the will of the British people. How the government loves to drive that point home; how they love to pretend that this is all in the interests of democracy, when we know the referendum only happened at all thanks to Tory infighting, and the seemingly impossible task of putting an end to it. So allowing Tories Henry VIII powers is like giving a fat child the keys to a sweet shop and telling them to resist temptation. It's tantamount to mass-murder of the most vulnerable in society when you consider the Tories' past record at the hands of the DWP, and possibly history will record this day in years to come as the day Britain sought to systematically enforce euthanasia on her sick and infirm.
Labour did seek an amendment to the EU bill, it reads as follows;
“This House respects the EU referendum result and recognises that the UK will leave the EU, believes that insisting on proper scrutiny of this Bill and its proposed powers is the responsibility of this sovereign Parliament, recognises the need for considered and effective legislation to preserve EU-derived rights, protections and regulations in UK law as the UK leaves the EU, but declines to give a Second Reading to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill because the Bill fails to protect and reassert the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty by handing sweeping powers to Government Ministers allowing them to bypass Parliament on key decisions, allows for rights and protections to be reduced or removed through secondary legislation without any meaningful or guaranteed Parliamentary scrutiny, fails to include a presumption of devolution which would allow effective transfer of devolved competencies coming back from the EU to the devolved administrations and makes unnecessary and unjustified alterations to the devolution settlements, fails to provide certainty that rights and protections will be enforced as effectively in the future as they are at present, risks weakening human rights protections by failing to transpose the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law, provides no mechanism for ensuring that the UK does not lag behind the EU in workplace protections and environmental standards in the future and prevents the UK implementing strong transitional arrangements on the same basic terms we currently enjoy, including remaining within a customs union and within the Single Market.”
(The repeal bill in it's entirety can be viewed here https://publications.parliament.uk/pdf)
At this point we should remind ourselves about democracy, and the fact as long as we are unified we can elect Jeremy Corbyn as PM. The Tories in their haste for a power grab have just given Labour an open ticket to change as they see fit a future many of us might only dream of. The future could be spectacular under Labour, as much as it could be a disaster under the Conservatives. Instead of looking at the repeal bill as a vessel of destruction, we could also see it as a bill for liberation. Perhaps it's how you look at it. Perspective is everything!
Labour MP Graham Stringer said: "I think it would be an absolute breach of trust between members of Parliament and the electorate if one was to try to block the Brexit bill, which is what this is." Mr Stringer abstained from the final vote @ 12.30 am as well as the earlier 12:14 am vote. We may also see a lot of misguided speculation concerning Dennis Skinner and Ronnie Campbell as two particular Labour MP's who voted for the bill @ the 12:14 am vote and then against the bill at the 12.30 am final vote. Both of the silver foxes voted against the ensuing eight day's of debate! However, any speculation to the contrary is met with a stern reminder from Provocateur that the 'Beast of Bolsover' is and always will be a true labour legend, so to Mr Campbell, MP for Blyth Valley. As we head into the third reading of the bill it could all completely change.
Alwyn Jones for Political Provocateur