The current Brexit date is now just 9 days away and the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill has been published. We still have no certainty as to whether the UK will leave the EU on the 31st of October (with or without a deal) or if a requested extension will be granted by the EU and needed by Parliament. With Q4 well underway, the last thing that online retailers need at this time of year is a sudden change to customs procedures.
On Monday this week, the Scottish courts delayed a decision on whether Boris Johnson had frustrated the Benn Act with his multiple letters to the EU, partly because it’s hard to tell as time hasn’t run out and partly because there’s no point making a decision when in theory if he wanted to break the law there’s still time to do so. It’s likely that only if the UK crash out of the EU without a deal on the current Brexit Date, the 31st of October, that it’s even worth considering if he broke the law. If a deal is ratified or an extension is granted then it’s difficult to see how he can be found guilty.
As one might have expected, the Speaker, John Bercow, refused to allow a second attempt to get a vote on it’s Brexit deal saying that it was already put to the Commons on Saturday.
The Government has published the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill which will the necessary legislation into law in order to enable the UK to leave the EU. This is the crux of the Letwin Amendment to the Brexit deal which now requires all legislation to be passed before Parliament gives the bill full approval.
The first reading of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill took place on Monday and the Government has an ambitious aim to get it through the Commons and handed off to the Lords before the weekend.
If Parliament approve the Government timetable it will have a second reading on Tuesday and then pass through the Committee stage where we can expect a ton of suggested amendments by MPs who hate the deal – everything from trying to tack on a customs union with the EU to putting the deal to the public in a referendum. MPs who would prefer to remain will do their best to water the deal down and are already crying that there isn’t sufficient time to scrutinise the legislation in full detail – probably a very fair argument but much is the same as Theresa May’s deal which was debated for 272 hours (112 hours, 33 minutes in the Commons, and 160 hours, 44 minutes in the Lords). The Government and those MPs in favour of getting Brexit done and over will do their best to keep the Bill on a fast track.
If the Government get their way, by Thursday the bill will get to the Report stage and third reading with the aim to pass the Bill off to the Lords who also might want to add amendments which the Commons then have to make a decision on – there could be some back and forth between the Commons and the Lords.
It’s worth noting that the Government doesn’t have control over the Lords timetable and they could potentially be in less of a rush to get the Bill passed before the current Brexit date – the 31st of October.
Finally, as a side issue, the DUP have been full of condemnation of the Brexit Deal claiming that it treats Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the Union. Somewhat perversely they did however rush back to Stormont to try and block changes to Northern Ireland’s abortion laws, passed in absence as the DUP and Sinn Féin had a spat and Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government since January 2017. Strange how they can attempt to keep Northern Ireland so out of step with the rest of the UK whilst the next minute complaining about different treatment.