January 27, 2017
The Brexit Bill in full
Rarely do we have the occasion to be able to cite an entire bill, verbatim, in our Daily Newsbriefing. The Brexit bill, published yesterday, is an exception (we did cut out the ceremonial section that prefaces every bill):
“A bill to confer power on the Prime Minister to notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU...
Power to notify withdrawal from the EU
(1) The Prime Minister may notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.
(2)This section has effect despite any provision made by or under the European Communities Act 1972 or any other enactment.
This Act may be cited as the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017.
Readers may be justified in asking the question: so this is what all the fuss was about? The answer is yes. And Rafael Behr, no fan of the Conservative government like most of his colleagues in the Guardian, writes with an air of resignation that this is it. Parliament will vote in favour of Article 50 very shortly. We would like to add that Brexit will be, at that point, effectively irreversible:
“The bill contains no hint of ceremony, no symbolic or practical deference to parliamentary sovereignty or scrutiny, although the court ruling arguably invited something of that nature. The proposed act reads instead as a stingy concession yielded reluctantly, under duress, with a very simple political calculation in mind – that MPs will not dare to delay or derail its passage for fear of being seen as stubborn defiers of the national will, as expressed in last year’s referendum. That calculation is surely well founded. There is not a majority in the Commons to thwart the progress of this bill.”
Indeed. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, will not only support the bill but he has imposed what is known in the UK as a three-line whip, the ultimate pressure a party leader can put on his MPs. If you defy the whip, you lose any official job, and possibly even the status as a member of the Labour Party parliamentary group (though not the seat itself). There will be some rebels. A front bench spokesman resigned yesterday on the grounds that her North London constituency voted overwhelmingly in favour of Remain. But the rebellion is contained. Two thirds of Labour MPs represent constituencies that voted Leave. The parliamentary majority in favour of the Article 50 trigger will be massive.