- Getty Images/Jeff J Mitchell
- Labour says it can’t support the government’s EU withdrawal bill over concerns about secondary legislation. The bill aims to remove all EU law and transpose it into UK law, and will be debated this week. This follows Labour changing its Brexit stance, which is now to support staying in the single market and customs union during a transition period.
LONDON – The Labour Party has announced that it will order its MPs to vote against the government’s EU withdrawal bill at its second reading on Monday.
A spokesperson for the party said on Tuesday that it will vote against the repeal bill if significant amendments are not made, forcing the minority Conservative government to rely on the votes of the Democratic Unionist Party for it to pass.
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will transpose all EU law into UK law but has been criticised for giving minister secondary legislative powers, also known as “Henry VIII” powers which allow ministers to affect the law without consulting Parliament.
In a statement, a Labour spokesperson said that while the party “respects the democratic decision to leave the European Union… we cannot vote for a bill that unamended would let government ministers grab powers from parliament to slash people’s rights at work and reduce protection for consumers and the environment.
“Parliament has already voted to leave the European Union. But the government’s EU withdrawal bill would allow Conservative ministers to set vital terms on a whim, including of Britain’s exit payment, without democratic scrutiny.”
This stance follows the party changing its Brexit policy, with shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer saying that a Labour government would seek to negotiate a transitional period which would see Britain remain both in the European single market and EU customs union.
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson also said last week that the UK could stay in the single market and customs union on a permanent basis after Brexit under a Labour government.
The party’s spokesperson continued: “Nobody voted in last year’s referendum to give this Conservative government sweeping powers to change laws by the back door. The slogan of the Leave campaign was about people taking back control and restoring powers to parliament.
“This power-grab bill would do the opposite. It would allow the government to seize control from the Parliament that the British people have just elected.”
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling attacked Labour’s position on Tuesday morning, saying it was being “irresponsible” and could create a “legal vacuum.”
Grayling told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m very sorry to see Labour behaving in a way many will see as irresponsible. What this bill will actually do is ensure there is not a legal cliff-edge when we leave the EU. We have 40 years of European law on the statute books.”
“You can’t have a situation where, when we leave, there is a complete legal vacuum, so we are taking the existing EU laws, putting them into UK law. This government and future governments will be free to modify as they see fit,” he added.