The EU Withdrawal Bill has passed. But what were the amendments, and what does this all mean for the future?
It's not every day you hear the Lib Dems singing the praises of the House of Lords. Whilst quickly overridden, this week the Lords orchestrated the first defeat of Johnson's new government. Or, more precisely, 5 defeats in the form of amendments added to the EU Withdrawal Agreement bill (WAB):
To provide EU nationals with a recognised hard copy of their settled status
This is a simple step which would safeguard EU citizens' rights. A physical copy may be needed, not just by the government but by other organisations a citizen would need to interact with such as employers, financial services and landlords. These don't appear to have access to the central database being created. How a settled EU national can easily prove their status to a private organisation remains unclear.
Protecting the rights of child refugees to move to the UK, where they have relatives legally resident
This amendment, put in place by a peer who fled to the UK as a child to escape the Nazis, compels the government to negotiate the placement of unaccompanied child refugees with the EU. Without this amendment, we simply have empty promises from a government which has persistently stuck its head in the sand over asylum seekers. This clause was in Teresa May's deal, and has been deliberately taken out during Johnson's renegotiations. One would have to say this speaks for itself.
Rejecting the power for ministers to direct how to proceed with EU court rulings,
Ensuring the Supreme Court can have a say in deciding if EU court rulings should be struck down
These amendments expose a sinister change to the constitution hidden in the WAB. With the original text intact the executive (ministers) can bypass previous decisions made by the judiciary (court), and the Supreme Court is left out of decisions on EU case law. It is a central tenet of our government that courts and parliament can scrutinise the actions of ministers. Reversing this direction is a worrying centralisation of powers.
It's no shock that the Johnson administration has unfinished business with the Supreme Court, and cutting them off from all things Brexit is both petty and a worrying sign of things to come. Hidden within the 2019 Tory manifesto is a vague and menacing sentence:
“After Brexit we also need to look at the broader aspects of our constitution: the relationship between the Government, Parliament and the courts; the functioning of the Royal Prerogative; the role of the House of Lords; and access to justice for ordinary people”
Those hoping this is a throwaway part of their manifesto would do well to note these changes are already happening, one month in, as part of the WAB.
A final amendment ensuring devolved matters be decided upon by devolved parliaments
This vote had the backdrop of symbolic rejections of the WAB by the Northern Ireland Assembly and Scottish Parliament. The Conservative and Unionist Party, it seems, has lost the support of the Union.
Brexit has now been enshrined in law. But the fight isn't over: the benefits of a close relationship with the EU are still as true as in 2016. We haven't entered the endgame of our relationship with the EU- this has just begun. And the Liberal Democrats are the largest national party committed to ensuring our close relationship with the EU remains.
Liberal Democrat peers today helped to inflict another defeat on the Conservative Government in the House of Lords, this time on a vote to protect child refugees.
By 300 to 220, the House of Lords passed an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill to maintain the rights of unaccompanied refugee children elsewhere in Europe to be reunited with their family members in the UK.
This marks the fourth government defeat on the Bill, after the Lords passed three amendments yesterday: one moved by Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and two to prevent Ministers from instructing lower courts to ignore legal precedent.
The Bill is set to return to the House of Commons tomorrow, when the Conservative Government is expected to try to overturn these amendments – against opposition from Liberal Democrat MPs.
Bromley Lib Dems are proud of what our Peers achieved today. The Liberal Democrats will not stand by while the Conservative Government uses Brexit to undermine the UK’s proud tradition of providing sanctuary to some of the world’s most vulnerable people. We hope that MPs will resist government pressure to overturn today’s vote in the House of Commons.
The Liberal Democrats have announced they would more than double spending on youth services in Bromley to £1.8 million to help tackle rising levels of crime/knife crime. This would form part of a total ring-fenced fund of £500 million for Local Authorities across England to spend on youth services, providing young people with positive, safe and healthy alternatives to gangs.
Under the Conservatives, council spending on youth services has been cut by £300 million - or 40 per cent - since 2015. Knife crime has risen by 80% over the same period, with a record high of 47,500 offences recorded in the year to June 2019. Research has also found the areas with the biggest cuts to youth services have seen some of the biggest increases in knife crime.
The Liberal Democrats would also take a public health approach to tackling youth violence, modelled on the successful approach taken by Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit. This would involve identifying risk factors and treating them early on, with youth workers, police, teachers, health professionals and social services all working closely together to prevent young people falling into gangs and violence.
Julie Ireland, Liberal Democrat candidate for Bromley & Chislehurst commented:
“Too many people in Bromley feel unsafe walking down their own streets.
“But for years, Conservative and Labour Governments have been competing to seem tough on crime, without doing enough to actually prevent it.
“Liberal Democrats will build a brighter future for young people by doubling spending on youth services to £1.8 million a year in Bromley.
“With a Liberal Democrat government, young people will have the support and opportunities they deserve, our local communities will be stronger and people here will feel safer.”
Bromley Lib Dems welcome the general election being called as the best opportunity to Stop Brexit. We are ready to stand on a clear platform: a Liberal Democrat government would Revoke Article 50, retain Britain’s place in Europe and get on with tackling the issues that have been neglected for the last four years.
The Lib Dems won the European elections in the capital in May, topping the poll overall and winning outright in 16 boroughs, reflecting London’s liberal, open identity.
In the Bromley Borough our outstanding, diverse and committed candidates are ready to be the voice of reason for our local communities. “Local people are realising the LibDems represent their liberal, internationalist, open values more than any other party. And they're finding we have attractive policies on the vital issues they care about like the climate emergency, the NHS, education, housing and crime." said Bromley & Chislehurst Candidate Julie Ireland.
Chloe-Jane Ross is standing in Beckenham against Bob Stewart, a staunch pro-leave MP. "The Lib Dems have been the loudest, proudest voice for Remain for the last three years and a half years, tabling 17 bids for a People’s Vote - which Labour have failed to back, leaving a general election as the only way to exit Brexit. Beckenham is a Remain constituency and Beckenham needs an MP who reflects those views. "
Allan Tweddle is standing in Orpington, formally the seat of Jo Johnson. “Two Conservative Prime Ministers have incompetently tried to deliver Brexit, threatening our country’s future prosperity. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has failed to take up any clear position on the most important political issue of our time, and facilitated Tory Brexit attempts. We need to win this argument and win this election so we can cancel Brexit and get on with dealing with the real issues of today: the climate crisis, the strain on our NHS, the rise of knife crime and our education system being pushed to breaking point.”
We have the momentum. We have the candidates. And with your help, we have the winning campaign and we will Stop Brexit.
There's been some negative coverage about the Lib Dems' support for the NHS following our abstention on a Labour amendment to the Queen's Speech. So let's set the record straight.
The NHS is incredibly important, and at time when our health service is under massive threat from Brexit it is important that political parties act with great care. The people who work in and lead the NHS do not want the disruptive and unwanted NHS reorganisation that Corbyn is proposing. Labour’s plans are ideologically driven and would not be welcomed by the NHS. They are not evidence driven, would cause major disruption and likely cost billions which could instead be spent on improving our struggling mental health service and reducing waiting times.
Over half of GPs have an average waiting time for non-urgent appointments at their practice of over two weeks. More than half (55%) of British adults with a diagnosed mental health problem who sought NHS treatment say they had to wait more than 4 weeks to see a mental health specialist.
Liberal Democrats are supporting the proposals the NHS recommended to Parliament. We will support the legislative changes the NHS needs, following the extensive consultation between the NHS and the cross-party Health and Social Care Select Committee lead by Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Wollaston.
These proposals have widespread support from the NHS workforce and those working alongside them. The NHS proposals include:
- An NHS Bill to free up different parts of the NHS to work together more easily which would speed up the implementation of the 10-year NHS Long Term Plan.
- Specific reference to the “minimal appetite for primary legislation that would now trigger another wholesale administrative reorganisation of the NHS2 – exactly what Labour would do.
- The scrapping of section 75 which would end enforcement of competition law and competitive tendering.
The Liberal Democrats are listening to what the NHS and the public want. Instead of focusing on these problems, Labour is proposing to repeal a piece of legislation, without saying what they will replace it with. They cannot turn the clock, all they would achieve is creating a vacuum in the NHS.
Liberal Democrats have also lead in Parliament in defending the NHS from the prospect of it being opened up and sold off in international trade deals to countries such as the USA. This has only become a threat thanks to Brexit, which Labour have supported. If Labour really care about the NHS they must stop pursuing Brexit and instead support the Liberal Democrat demand to Stop Brexit.