It is now four months since the momentous vote to leave the European Union and we are still no clearer as to what post-Brexit Britain will look like. All we know is that, during a speech to Conservative Party conference, the Prime Minister promised a Great Repeal Act which will consolidate the European Communities Act 1972 into UK law and confirmed that Article 50 will be triggered by the end of March 2017.
This information is welcome but not nearly enough. The Government are still refusing to release any details of what work they are doing on determining what Brexit means for the UK. They are even refusing to release any information or to allow a parliamentary vote on their general negotiating position with the EU.
There is clearly a mandate to leave the EU but the Government have absolutely no mandate for the “hard Brexit” they appear to be pursuing. The Government have a responsibility to publish the basic terms of their Brexit proposals and put this to a vote in Parliament before Article 50 is invoked. The slogan of the Leave campaign was “take back control” but it appears, in practice, the Government want to cut the sovereign UK Parliament out of the decision making process and proper scrutiny.
I raised this with the new Secretary of State for Brexit, David Davis MP:
In his Parliamentary statement, David Davis maintained that no further steps were needed to ensure Parliament could scrutinise the Brexit process but, facing the prospect of a Commons defeat, the Government accepted Labour’s motion which called for a "full and transparent debate on the government's plans to leave the EU" and for there to be "proper scrutiny" of those plans in Parliament before Article 50 is triggered. But, as yet, the Government have made no commitment on a vote.
You can watch Labour Opposition Day Debate here: https://goo.gl/HXwqfv
The recent High Court ruling changes things somewhat, as it forces the Government to have a parliamentary vote before triggering Article 50. The Government will of course challenge this ruling and I understand the Supreme Court have allocated some time in December with the anticipation this will happen. A central platform of the Leave Campaign's argument during the referendum was that a leave vote would restore parliamentary sovereignty but they are now using legal appeals to fight against this.
To mark 170 days until we trigger Article 50 the Labour Party put 170 questions to the Government including: Single Market membership, Common Agricultural payments, workers’ rights, free movement of people, financial services regulation and national security. The Government must answer these questions and allow proper parliamentary scrutiny of their plans.
The pound is hugely devalued and we are beginning to see the real uncertainty caused by the Prime Minister’s intimations which indicate that the UK will take an axe to the economy by pursuing an ideologically driven “hard Brexit” which would be damaging for the people of Edinburgh and Scotland. I will continue to speak up for our financial services sector, our world class universities and the thousands of EU nationals who bring so much to our city. In fact, I made this point to the Secretary of State for Scotland last week as well:
I also praised the contribution of EU nationals at Edinburgh University Kings Buildings:
The national interest must come first, and the Government must do the right thing for jobs, businesses and working people by securing continued access to the single market on the best possible terms. The Government was rightly pressed for assurances on this by the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, who also criticised the use of divisive and hostile language by Ministers over recent weeks. This is the defining issue which will face us for many years to come, and the job of any responsible Government is to bring the country together, not drive it apart.