Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, wrote earlier in January in the Independent. She said: “Boris Johnson’s new Withdrawal Agreement Bill not only drives the hardest Brexit of all, it also excludes MPs from decisions over our future relationship with the EU. The House of Commons will have no oversight on the Government’s negotiating objectives, no right to be kept updated on progress and no vote on the final deal.
“The right of Parliament to scrutinise Government policies and actions is being undermined on one of the most important issues facing our country. Democratic oversight matters. Trade deals have the potential to lower public standards, destroy jobs and restrict the ability to address social and environmental issues.”
“Democracy dies in darkness, and Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill starts to turn off the lights. He is using Brexit as an executive power-grab, side-lining MPs and evading parliamentary scrutiny.”
Boris Johnson’s government brought the Withdrawal Agreement Bill back to Parliament after the general election and gave the House of Commons only three days to scrutinise the bill in order to fulfil the pledge to “get Brexit done.”
According to the Guardian, certain key accountability provisions have been removed from the Bill passed since the general election:
- the clause giving MPs the right to approve an extension to the transition period has been removed.
- The clause 31 requirement for parliamentary approval for negotiations on the future relationship in the October bill has gone.
- In the new bill clauses pledging alignment with the EU on workers’ rights has been removed.
- Legal protections for refugee children reunited with family members in the UK have been watered down. The bill removes, via clause 37, obligations in regard to unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the EU with an obligation to make a statement within two months of passing the act.
- The government no longer promises that its’ position on negotiating the future relationship will be in line with the political declaration that accompanied the withdrawal agreement when it was first drafted.
Mrs Lucas tabled an amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in Parliament on 8th January which would have given MPs a vote on a future UK-EU deal as well as increasing transparency and scrutiny. It had the support of MPs from the SNP, Plaid, Labour, the SDLP and Alliance parties, although no Conservatives who hold a majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons.
The amendment was therefore defeated and the Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed its second reading with a majority of 124 votes to the government. Mrs Lucas’ amendment was voted down by 347 votes to 251, effectively vetoing any vote for MPs on the final Brexit deal.
Hove MP, Peter Kyle, supported the Green Party amendment. He said: “I’m fully supporting this amendment – we cannot allow the Tory government to ride roughshod over Parliament and MPs who were elected to be a voice for our communities.”
From the Commons the bill went to the House of Lords where the Dubs Amendment about child refugees was defeated among other amendments. On 23 January the Withdrawal Agreement Bill received royal assent and became UK law and on 29 January the European Union gave their consent for the UK to leave the EU and ratified the British bill.
The EU Parliament sang Auld Lang Syne on Tuesday as a mark of respect for the significant role that Britain has played in the European Union since it joined the European Economic Community (EEC) which preceded the EU in 1973.
When asked what kind of trade deal Mr Kyle wanted post Brexit and with whom, Mr Kyle said: “We now need to ensure we get the very best for the country. I believe as a trading bloc we had that deal with Europe, but now we must work hard to minimise disruption and increased food prices and loss of business.”
In an effort to maximise Parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit negotiations, Mr Kyle said: “I am hoping to be elected on to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. As an active member on this committee I will have the opportunity to hold the government – and business – to account on the major issues of the environment, the Green Economy and business.”
I asked Mr Kyle if the Labour Party is succeeding in holding the government to account, are they working in coalition with anyone and if Labour does not feel it is succeeding because of the size of Boris’ majority, what can be done?
Mr Kyle said: “The 2019 election was a disaster for Labour and we are now rebuilding. Once the new leader is in place, in April, we will be much clearer as to how we proceed going forward.
“I’m hoping that we can begin to start talking to the public once more and to understand what they want and what their concerns are. We will then also have a new front bench team to challenge Boris Johnson.”
Wish Councillor Robert Nemeth who was the Conservative candidate at the last general election was approached and declined to comment.