Labour has no mandate to block the EU Withdrawal Bill

Labour has no mandate to block the EU Withdrawal Bill

The debate as to whether we are leaving the European Union or remaining is now over. That issue was determined in the referendum last year. The public voted to Leave and both main parties stood on a manifesto that pledged to accept the outcome of the referendum and deliver Brexit.

Eighty percent of the UK electorate voted for parties supporting Brexit at the 2017 General Election. Indeed, Labour’s pro-Brexit stance meant we were able to deprive the Tories of a majority. We are now focused on ensuring that our country’s withdrawal from the European Union is as smooth and as seamless as possible.

As a Labour Member of Parliament, I will be voting for the Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill next Monday to ensure that on day one of being outside the European Union the rights of consumers and workers, the protections on the environment and for our consumers are guaranteed and enshrined in UK law.

The EU Withdrawal Bill is essential if we are to be ready by the March 2019 deadline to leave the European Union: we have eighteen months to transfer all European Union law into United Kingdom statute.  The Government has therefore undertaken to use methods of establishing legislation, namely Statutory Instruments, to ensure that all EU law is transferred so the Great Repeal Bill can function.

This is not without precedent; indeed, the last Labour Government, in which many current Labour Members of Parliament served, doubled the number of Statutory Instruments to introduce new law. It is a method all governments use to enact legislation. The measures presented by the Government guarantee that we will be ready to Leave. As someone who supported Leave, and who wants to see our country succeed outside the European Union, I am compelled to support this Bill.

Fears have been expressed that the Government will use the Bill to erode or erase workers’ rights, social and environmental protections, employment and consumer rights.  The Government have made it clear that this is not the case and that they want to ensure these measures are in UK law. If the Repeal Bill is not passed, those rights currently safeguarded under EU law will not be enshrined in UK law and on day one of Brexit will become null and void.

How, then, can Labour colleagues oppose measures that will guarantee rights and guarantee their place in UK law once we are outside of the European Union? It is questionable anyway whether or not the EU has indeed protected workers’ rights. If the Social Chapter was such a good thing, why now are millions of British workers being exploited through zero-hours contracts?

I want Labour to support this Bill, so that on day one of Brexit, when we take back control, the next Labour government will not be restricted by EU law and will be free to expand, increase and enhance all those rights safeguarded under EU law and no longer have to abide by State Aid rules. The United Kingdom will have the potential to become a standard-bearer for social democracy that puts EU standards to shame.

To vote against the Repeal Bill is to vote against the will of the British people. The Bill will repeal the European Communities Act. If my party now fully accepts the outcome of the referendum – as it has stated – then we cannot vote against the very measure that will implement the referendum result. Without this Bill, our withdrawal from the European Union will not be smooth and seamless. There will be uncertainty for the public and for business and that we cannot allow. Labour has a responsibility to hold the Government to account, but not a mandate to block the Second Reading on the principle of the Bill.

I urge my colleagues on the Labour benches to support the EU Withdrawal Bill. Seventy percent of Labour constituencies voted to leave the European Union. Polls and estimates show that around 4.5 million Labour voters from the 2017 General Election supported a Leave vote. Many Labour Members of Parliament represent strong Leave constituencies.  Labour cannot appear to be attempting to scupper Brexit, especially at a time when the country needs to show unity in the face of the EU intransigence.  Labour should be playing its part in making a success of Brexit.