This week, the process of leaving the EU began in earnest as the Prime Minister formally notified the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, that she is triggering Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union.
You can see a copy of her letter here.
This was followed, yesterday, by the publication of the Government’s planned approach to transpose all EU law into UK law on the day we leave the Union. This is because otherwise we would be left with huge gaps in our regulatory system, including our protections and rights on a whole host of things from employment rights to consumer rights to environmental standards which we get from EU law. The House of Commons Library reports that this is likely to be ‘one of the largest legislative projects ever undertaken in the UK’. For example, 80% of DEFRA legislation is derived from or makes references to the European Union. All of this legislation needs to be checked to ensure that it is still functional after we have left the European Union.
David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, has committed the Government to negotiating “a comprehensive free trade agreement and a comprehensive customs agreement that will deliver the exact same benefits as we have”, but a huge number of questions still exist about everything from how we'll cooperate on cross-border crime and security to our future trading arrangements with the EU and other countries. The government can't give us any detail, except to say, shockingly, that if it wants to change EU laws once they've been incorporated into UK law, ministers will in many cases be able to do that via so-called 'secondary legislation', which isn’t necessarily debated or voted on by parliament. So much for 'bringing back control' to the UK parliament.
We now have just two years to negotiate bilateral deals with the 53 countries with which the EU has Free Trade Agreements, which will cease to apply to Britain on the day of Brexit. The successful negotiation of a free trade deal with the EU itself is essential. Together, the remaining 27 EU countries are by far and away our largest export market. Retaining the exact same benefits the UK currently enjoys is going to be an enormous challenge, and we now know that the 27 states of the EU will not agree to negotiate future arrangements before the terms of our leaving settlement have been agreed and, of course, this includes any bill the UK needs to pay to meet our obligations on exit. The Government had hoped to do both at once, but both Donald Tusk and Angela Merkel have said that considerable progress on the exit settlement must come first.
The Prime Minister has declared that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, but no deal would do considerable damage to our economy, and it is therefore extremely concerning that David Davis admitted to the Brexit Select Committee that the government has conducted no analysis of what this would mean for the British economy. I can assure you that Labour will fight hard against such a reckless step which would hit jobs, living standards and growth, and we will reject any attempts by the Government to weaken workplace rights, environmental and consumer protections or indeed any EU-derived law.
Recently, I have received correspondence from constituents concerned about what Brexit will mean for EU nationals living and working in the UK, the impact of us leaving Euratom (the European wide Nuclear Energy regulator), and the impact of Brexit on our fair trade deals with developing countries, and I wrote to various Government Ministers seeking answers. I also spoke out in Parliament on behalf of the many young people I have spoken to in the constituency, who had no say in the Referendum yet will be the most affected. You can see my contribution, and the wider debate that followed the Prime Minister’s statement on triggering Article 50 here.