This week Parliament was back debating the EU Withdrawal Bill as it entered the Report stage in the House of Commons. Before I update you on those debates, I want to let you know about a report the Scottish Government have published.
On Monday the Scottish Government released its second paper on the potential implications of Brexit on Scotland and the options available to us. Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment outlines that leaving the EU could result in a hit to GDP of up to 8.5%, equivalent to a loss of £2,300 per year for each person in Scotland. Scotland needs continued migration from the EU (each additional EU citizen working in Scotland currently contributes an average of £10,400 in tax revenue) and, ultimately, Scotland and the UK need to stay inside the Single Market and Customs Union to protect Scotland’s interests. Do take a read if you can find the time – it’s a document that brings some much needed evidence and facts to the debate.
Tuesday saw us back in the Commons for the last two days of debate on the Bill before it heads to the Lords. Before Christmas I secured a commitment from David Mundell that we would have Government amendments on Clause 11 - the power grab of devolved powers going to Westminster – at Report stage (watch it here). But, in another broken promise, none were forthcoming.
The debate covered the devolved administrations, the handover of powers to Ministers and the Single Market/Customs Union amongst other aspects. The SNP tabled key amendments on the European Court of Justice and the Scottish Parliament’s devolved competences and tabled a cross-party amendment on the Single Market and Customs Union.
Yesterday I spoke in favour of the SNP's Amendment 59 (watch it here), under which the UK would confirm continued membership of the Single Market and Customs Union before ministers could use secondary legislation to implement any withdrawal agreement agreed with the EU under Article 50.The amendment was defeated by 322 to 99.
Other key votes included:
We then moved on to final votes on the Bill itself – would the commons allow it to progress to the Lords. Ian Blackford submitted an amendment for the SNP which would have stopped the Bill progressing on the basis that the Government has not brought in amendments to meet concerns on devolved nations (clause 11).
Given the noise the Scottish Tories have been making on this you might have thought one or two would take a stand. After all, Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said he was “deeply frustrated and disappointed” amendments were not produced in time and Tory MP Paul Masterton tweeted in a similar vein. Seems it's all just measly words as not one rebelled and the motion was defeated 322-295
Finally, the Third Reading vote. The Bill passed by 324- 295. Four Labour MPs voted for it while not a single Tory voted against.
So, the Bill now be sent to House of Lords, meaning that un-elected aristocrats will have more say than all of Scotland’s MPs put together. That’s democracy in the UK for you. I can only hope the Lords step up and make the changes so desperately needed.
Four weeks ago I was worried about writing this column on the eve of the last major parliamentary debate on Brexit. Anything could have happened, rendering my speculation obsolete by the time you read it. I shouldn’t have fretted. Anything could have happened but nothing did.
Here I am again. Groundhog day. It’s Tuesday. There’s a big debate tomorrow.
Tuesday. Another day spent discussing Brexit. Another day of my life I’m not getting back.
We are no further forward. As the clock ticks down to exit it’s only fair to ask: What the hell is Theresa May playing at?