As you know, Parliament has been scrutinising the Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill which prepares our legal framework for when we leave the EU. This legislation is not about whether we leave the EU – that was settled by the referendum and Parliament’s decision to trigger Article 50 last year. The UK will therefore leave the EU in March 2019, will no longer be on the European Council and will no longer have Members of the European Parliament.
The EU (Withdrawal) Bill has now completed its Parliamentary stages and received Royal Assent on 26 June becoming an Act of Parliament. Regarding “exit day”, when the Government originally introduced the EU (Withdrawal) Bill it allowed Ministers to set different “exit days” for different purposes. These do not affect when our membership of the EU comes to an end. However, they are important technical definitions that determine matters such as when powers given to Ministers in the Bill come to an end and whether we can have an orderly transition period on current terms.
Two years on from the referendum, it is clear the Government has no plan for how it will protect jobs and the economy and guarantee no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I believe the best way to protect our economy – including our manufacturing and services sectors – and to avoid any need for a hard border in Northern Ireland is to negotiate a new UK-EU customs union and secure a strong single market arrangement.
I therefore voted for amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that would have put the negotiation of a customs union with the EU back on the negotiating table and required the Government to secure full access to the single market. These amendments were defeated by the Government. However, I intend to press these issues further at appropriate opportunities in Parliament.
Our withdrawal from the EU is one of the most complex issues our country has faced in generations and I know that there are strong views on how best to approach it. As your elected representative in Parliament, I welcome your views and comments throughout this process.