Jul 12

A Test Of Confidence

Theresa May could be gone sooner than you think. While not a “formal” confidence vote, the Great Repeal Bill is coming up and a defeat is not only possible, it might be decisive.

Labour threat to defeat Theresa May over Brexit bill
by Heather Stewart, The Guardian
Wednesday 12 July 2017 17.00 EDT

With only a few Conservative rebels needed to inflict defeat on the prime minister, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer told the Guardian he was “putting the government on notice” and demanded changes on matters from parliamentary scrutiny to workers’ rights.

Starmer’s move to exploit the prime minister’s weakness – and formally reject her entreaties for Jeremy Corbyn’s party to work alongside her – came as the government faced further setbacks over its approach to Brexit.

Ahead of the bill’s publication on Thursday, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, issued a warning to the UK that “the clock is ticking” on the two-year negotiation process. And the Conservative Remain-supporting former minister Nicky Morgan became chair of the influential Treasury select committee to position herself as a thorn in the side of the government’s plans for leaving the EU.

The so-called “great repeal bill”, which will revoke the European Communities Act of 1972 and transpose EU law into UK law, will be published on Thursday as the European Union (withdrawal) bill, but MPs will not get the chance to vote on it until it receives its second reading in the autumn.

Starmer said that the bill would not gain Labour’s support in its current form. “We have very serious issues with the government’s approach, and unless the government addresses those issues, we will not be supporting the bill,” Starmer said.

The so-called “great repeal bill”, which will revoke the European Communities Act of 1972 and transpose EU law into UK law, will be published on Thursday as the European Union (withdrawal) bill, but MPs will not get the chance to vote on it until it receives its second reading in the autumn.

Starmer said that the bill would not gain Labour’s support in its current form. “We have very serious issues with the government’s approach, and unless the government addresses those issues, we will not be supporting the bill,” Starmer said.

He said Labour would demand concessions in six areas. These include ensuring that workers’ rights in Britain do not fall behind those in the EU; incorporating the European Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law; and limiting the scope of so-called “Henry VIII powers”, which could allow the government to alter legislation with minimal parliamentary scrutiny.

“These issues are serious, they’re reasonable, and we’re very firm about them. So we’re really putting the government on notice,” he said.

Meanwhile in Brussels, where formal talks will restart next Monday, Barnier, giving an update on the negotiations so far, rebuffed Boris Johnson’s comment that the EU can “go whistle” if it thought Britain would pay a huge bill for leaving the EU.

Barnier said: “I am not hearing any whistling, just a clock ticking,” and stressed the EU’s longstanding position that citizens’ rights, the Northern Irish border and the divorce settlement must be dealt with before talks can begin on a future free trade deal.

“The three priorities for the first phase are indivisible,” he said. “Progress on one or two would not be sufficient in order for us to move on to the discussion of our future relationship.”

Starmer described Johnson’s remarks as “deeply unhelpful to constructive negotiations”.

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