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What do you want from Parliament’s Article 50 debate?

November 8, 2016 1:21 PM
By Joe Otten in Liberal Democrat Voice

With the issue of whether Article 50 needs parliamentary approval currently before the courts, there is some discussion of what Parliament ought to do with the process if it gets the chance.

While clearly there is no majority for simply blocking article 50, it is quite reasonable for MPs to put constructive amendments to the proposal, respectful of the mandate from June, and to vote against if those amendments are not accepted - as one would with any other bill before Parliament.

One amendment should be to give the people a vote on the final deal, so that we can choose, once we know what the reality looks like, whether we still want it. The value of this depends on whether article 50 is revocable - something that is still in doubt. More on that later.

Some other useful amendments, in the theme of the leave promise of "of course we can still co-operate where it is in our interests"

  • To seek to maintain co-operation on crime, policing, terror and intelligence. Theresa May has already indicated she is minded to do this, having already gone through the exercise of choosing which measures are in our interests during the coalition.

  • To seek to maintain membership of scientific research programmes. This is very important to UK universities, and is not even largely about funding, but continued participation in world-class collaborative programmes.

  • To seek some agreement on fisheries management to prevent overfishing, which would lead stock depletion, livelihoods destroyed and hungry people. (The fish don't know where the borders are.)

  • To remain within the scope of EU policy on climate change.

  • To maintain as frictionless as possible trade with the EU.

  • To allow high skill sectors (at least) to recruit without any barrier between the UK and EU.

By way of honouring other leave promises, amendments to the goverment's A50 resolution might

  • Find £350 million a week for the NHS. (This would involve a net payment from the EU to us. More on that later.)

  • Allow greater immigration of skilled people (eg curry chefs - as the curry trade has been promised) from outside the EU.

  • Reduce total net immigration to the tens of thousands. (This amendment should probably come from somebody who doesn't move the previous one.)

  • Ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is honoured and therefore the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic remains open.

  • Ensure that Spain does not gain the right to close its border with Gibraltar.

  • Ensure that we have control of our borders.

These are just a few examples - do post more in the comments. More broadly, we are waiting to see whether the version of Brexit the government intends to seek is the one that was promised to the socialists (ha!), or to the buccaneering capitalists (you'd think) or the isolationists (as it's looking).

If the government refuses to deliver what was promised they will be defying the democratic will of the people as expressed in the referendum on June 23rd, and they need to be sent away to try again.

One more thing we were promised was that the UK would have the upper hand in any negotiations - because of BMW etc - hence the demand that they pay us for our NHS. This may not be the case if Article 50 turns out to be irrevocable. The power to revoke would protect us from any attempt at brinkmanship that any 1 or 2 blocking EU members sought to engage in. In this case we ought to consider whether Article 50 is the correct route to Brexit. Cameron said it was, which shut down discussion at the time, but he lost.

* Joe Otten is a councillor in Sheffield and Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice

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