EXCLUSIVE: Remain bosses targeting EU Withdrawal Bill with FT letter

EXCLUSIVE: Remain bosses targeting EU Withdrawal Bill with <em>FT</em> letter

A draft letter is circulating amongst Remain-supporting executives aimed at putting pressure on the Government over the EU Withdrawal Bill, BrexitCentral can reveal.

The letter, addressed to the Financial Times and leaked to BrexitCentral in draft form, will “urge the Government to amend to EU Withdrawal Bill” to retain the controversial EU Charter of Fundamental Rights after Brexit.

It is expected to be published in advance of the House of Lords voting on amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which will most likely take place during the Bill’s Report Stage after the Easter Recess in mid-to-late April. Government peers are treating the specific vote on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as too close to call.

BrexitCentral understands that Sir Richard Branson, high-profile Remain supporter and founder of Virgin Group, and Dame Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyd’s of London, are among the high-profile businesspeople to have been approached with a view to securing their backing for the letter.

While the letter welcomes the Government’s commitment in the EU Withdrawal Bill to “retain EU law and make it part of UK law”, it argues against the exclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights from the Bill, saying that it is an issue which “matters to business”.

Prominent entrepreneur and Labour supporter John Mills expressed his bemusement at the letter, saying that he had “never heard the Charter discussed at any business meeting” in the course of his entire career. “What they seem to be doing is just politicking with it rather than raising it as a serious business issue,” Mills added.

A senior DExEU source said: “The Charter was only ever designed to be applicable to EU institutions and countries operating within the scope of EU law – which the UK won’t be after Brexit”, adding that there would be serious legal “complications” if the Charter was retained after Brexit.

The Blair Government declared that the Charter would have no more legal weight in the UK “than the Beano” when the Charter was originally produced in the early 2000s, before claiming to have secured an ‘opt-out’ from the Charter as included in the Lisbon Treaty in 2007. However, it was the British (and Polish) ‘opt-out’ which was deemed to be legally meaningless in a subsequent judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2012 (N.S v Secretary of State for the Home Department).

The draft letter argues that the Charter “provides a clear framework within which business works”, while going on to say, “without it, we are worried that clarity will be replaced by confusion.” However, senior former members of the judiciary have already contradicted these claims in the House of Lords, stressing the Charter’s incompatibility with UK law and raising concerns about the confusion that would arise if it were to be retained.

Lord Hope of Craighead, the former Deputy President of the Supreme Court, noted that in the charter, “you find reference to the Union in item after item. It begins with a series of rights, but as soon as you penetrate further you find that it is closely related to membership of the Union and things that are guaranteed by its law… This charter will have to be largely rewritten if we introduce it into our law, but it is not designed for the kind of situation we are facing after Brexit. It is designed for use within the Union and to be interpreted by the CJEU.”

Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, the former Supreme Court Justice who, in his own words, “remain[s] a Remainer”, said that keeping the Charter “would needlessly complicate things to no good purpose”. Legal academic Baroness Deech described it as a “Trojan horse” and said that its retention would be a “recipe for confusion, uncertainty and the setting aside of British law according to ECJ judgements”, saying that the UK would be “much better off with something home-grown and administered by our Supreme Court.”