For the last four years the Liberal Democrats have proudly fought to stop Brexit.
We are immensely proud of everything we did. We stood up for our values. We campaigned so hard. But we also accept that at 11pm tonight, we will no longer be members of the European Union.
Our European story is not over. Tomorrow our fight continues, to make sure Britain has the closest possible relationship with our allies in Europe.
Our recent survey in Bromley Town Centre found one of the key issues people are worried about is homelessness in our borough. And with a homeless population of over 4400, people are rightly worried. The Tory-led council and government don't want to do anything about it: homeless people are helped largely though charity, despite the causes of homelessness often being induced by poor housing, health and welfare policy.
And yet our government reserves the right to arrest these people.
71% of people think arresting someone for sleeping rough is a waste of police time. Over half have said it shouldn’t be a crime at all.
But still, the government's kicked the decision of repealing the Vagrancy Act it into the long grass and is waiting for their own review.
Layla Moran, Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, introduced a Vagrancy (Repeal) Bill into the last Parliament. In the chaos of Brexit, it disappeared. But this could be quickly re-introduced.
Out of sight, out of mind isn't good enough. It's a mark of national shame that even one person is homeless in 2020 - even more so that we're prosecuting them for it. The problem isn't going to go away - so let's make the first step towards solving it together. Let's scrap the Vagrancy Act.
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.