HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
As Parliament returned last week, the debate on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill began.
This legislation is a necessary step on our road to independence. It will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and, at the point of our departure, convert all European law into British law, so that it can be amended, repealed, or maintained at the will of the British people through their sovereign Parliament. The Bill ensures continuity, certainty and control as, without it, statutory gaps might prove detrimental.
The debate as to whether or not to leave the European Union is settled and, thankfully, the passage of this Bill cannot alter that. More people in Britain voted to leave the European Union on June 23, 2016 than have ever voted on any issue or for political party in our history.
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty was triggered on March 29 this year, after 494 Members of Parliament – an overwhelming majority – voted to do so in the House of Commons. Its automatic and irrevocable legal effect is that at midnight on March 29, 2019, EU treaties in their entirety will cease to apply to us.
In the General Election earlier this year, 85 per cent of the votes cast were for parties accepting Brexit. The Liberal Democrats – touting themselves as the Party for Remain – saw their number of votes fall. Labour’s position since has, of course, vacillated to the point of absurdity – perhaps they wish to be all things to all men?
The Government’s position has not changed; we will leave the Single Market and the Customs Union, and – as an independent, sovereign nation – will cease to be under the jurisdiction of a foreign court. The Brexit legislation brought before Parliament has those central goals at heart.
In essence, the Withdrawal Bill is a procedural matter, very similar to the mechanisms used by former British colonies upon gaining independence; it makes the journey smoother, but it cannot (and does not seek to) change our final destination.
Nonetheless, there are those – die-hard, head-in-the-sand Remainers – who suppose that they can derail Brexit by voting against the Bill this week. The simple reality is that they can do nothing of the kind – the people have spoken loudly and unequivocally. Surely, it makes no sense to make the process of our departure more chaotic, so leaving businesses and the rest of us more uncertain?
Parliamentary scrutiny and debate are the cornerstones of our democracy, and this Bill, like others, should and will be debated. But those proposing to vote against it in its entirety will proclaim that, even now, they do not accept the result of last year’s referendum. I will vote with pride for the Bill, just as I was proud to campaign for us to Leave the artifice that is the arcane European Union.