Good morning. After spending roughly four and a half years arguing about what Britain’s relationship with the European Union should be like following the vote to leave in June 2016, parliamentarians will rush the legislation implementing the trade deal agreed last week through the Commons and the Lords in just one day. This is because the European Union (future relationship) bill needs to become law before the post-Brexit transition ends tomorrow night.
But allowing such little time for parliamentary scrutiny of such an important law has been widely criticised. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU (pdf) runs to more than 1,200 pages. The bill (pdf) runs to 80 pages. Yet effectively it is just going to be rubber-stamped.
In a report the Commons Brexit committee has described this timetable as “unavoidable but concerning”. The Lords constitution committee has said that this is hardly what people were promised in the referendum. In its report (pdf) it says:
A prominent argument for the UK leaving the European Union was to “take back control” of our laws—for laws to be determined by the UK parliament rather than the EU’s law-making bodies …
It is regrettable that this bill, which determines how the UK’s future relationship with the EU will be implemented in UK law, was published less than 24 hours before parliamentary scrutiny was due to begin. This does not allow parliament much in the way of ‘control’. At the very least, it leaves open the question as to where, or to whom, the control taken back rests.
The Hansard Society, the leading thinktank covering parliamentary procedure, is even blunter. It has published a blog by its senior researcher, Brigid Fowler, describing the process as “a farce”.
Boris Johnson will be opening the Commons debate and in his speech, according to extracts released overnight by No 10, he will claim that the deal will mark “a resolution of the old and vexed question of Britain’s political relations with Europe, which bedevilled our post-war history”. Our preview story is here.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: MPs begin the one-day scrutiny of the European Union (future relationship) bill. They will start with a motion allowing MPs to take part in the debate virtually, and then a business motion setting a timetable, before Boris Johnson opens the second reading debate. The second reading, and all the remaining stages, should conclude by 2.30pm.
10.30am: Members of the Senedd (the Welsh parliament) debate a critical Welsh government motion relating to the European Union (future relationship) bill.
12pm: Members of the Northern Ireland assembly debate a neutral motion relating to the European Union (future relationship) bill.
1.30pm: MSPs debate a critical Scottish government motion relating to the European Union (future relationship) bill.
After 2.30pm: Matt Hancock, the health secretary, makes a statement to MPs about coronavirus. That will be followed by a debate on the latest coronavirus restrictions.
After 2.30pm: Peers debate the European Union (future relationship) bill. More than 140 peers are on the list to speak, and it is expected that they won’t finish debating the bill until around midnight. After it has cleared both houses, royal assent is due to be granted very soon afterwards.
I will be mostly focusing on Brexit this morning. We’ll be covering coronavirus news on our global coronavirus live blog. It’s here.
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