Wed 27 January 2021

Six safeguarding bills are not passed and the Government continues to stall on anti-corruption law in Financial Services Bill

Seema Malhotra MP

DExEU Secretary Stephen Barclay admitted on Tuesday that the UK may be forced to beg the EU for a ‘technical extension’ to the Brexit process, no matter what Parliament votes for.

It would be ‘a decision taken by the EU 27’, Barclay admitted, out of the hands of Parliament as it is not in the UK’s gift to decide if there is an extension, or for how long.

The fact emerged as Seema Malhotra MP quizzed DExEU Secretary Stephen Barclay in a parliamentary scrutiny hearing by the Committee for Exiting the European Union.

“There are about ten sitting days left after Thursday, how are you going to schedule this?”

Seema Malhotra MP

Malhotra said it was a ‘practical question’. She asked about ‘six Brexit bills’ that have so far failed to pass the House: “We’ve got six remaining Brexit Bills that are yet to complete their passage through parliament …how much time do we actually have? … Do you think that we are going to need to seek an extension? There are about ten sitting days left after Thursday, how are you going to schedule this?”

DExEU Secretary Stephen Barclay

“There may be the need for a technical extension, if that is the soundbite that you are seeking. … This would be a decision taken by the EU 27.

Stephen Barclay, DExEU

Barclay answered: “We’ll have to see … There may be the need for a technical extension, if that is the soundbite that you are seeking. … The point about whether one has a technical extension or a long extension and how long the extension is … is it’s not within the  control of this House … This would be a decision taken by the EU 27.” He said the Business community are “crying out for certainty”.

Barclay added that there is no appetite in the Government to ask for an extension into May, when the UK would have to offer candidates to stand in the European elections.

What are the Six No-Deal Bills?

  • Financial Services Bill

If there is a no-deal exit from the EU on 29th March then the Bill would be necessary to ensure the continuity of banking regulations, according to the Guardian.

The Government has stalled on a key anti-corruption measure that it committed to introducing as part of anti-money-laundering regulations. Labour’s Margaret Hodge and the Conservatives’ Andrew Mitchell joined forces to implement a Public Register of Ownership in tax havens in the Bill. Theresa May then “pulled” the Bill, prompting outcry from Tax Justice campaigners.

Private Eye reported last week that Commons leader Andrea Leadsom MP was also ‘responsible’ for delaying the Bill and “just happens to have received financial support from her brother-in-law’s Guernsey-based hedge fund”.

If passed, this Bill would introduce a public register for Crown Dependencies. It would have to come into force no later than two years after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU.

  • Trade Bill

This Bill provides for implementing international trade agreements. It has reached ‘Report Stage’, the penultimate stage for legislation to pass both Houses of Parliament.Healthcare (International Agreements) Bill

  • Healthcare (International Agreements) Bill

This Bill reached its Report Stage (penultimate stage) in the House of Lords yesterday, where peers were highly critical that the public had not been consulted on the “breathtaking scope” of the Government seeking to use it to implement trade deals. Baroness Brinton warned that this could have resulted in the NHS being used as a ‘bargaining tool’ with other countries – the US in particular. Lords reduced this aspect of the Bill to countries in the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

Among other aspects, this Bill governs how British patients can pay for and access healthcare outside the United Kingdom, and how that access is reciprocated in the UK. The Bill has its third reading in the House of Lords on the 19th of March.

  • Agriculture Bill

This Bill would impose an agricultural transition period for the UK after Brexit. It would allow the Government to hand out aid to UK farmers, who could otherwise be ruined by a No Deal outcome. The penultimate stage for passing this Bill, the ’Report Stage’, is yet to be announced.

  • Fisheries Bill

This Bill would govern a wide range of legal needs for fisheries after Brexit, including access to British fisheries. The ‘Report Stage’ for this bill is yet to be announced.

  • Immigration Bill

This Bill would repeal free movement and bring in a new immigration system by January 2021. The question is what status EU citizens would have in the UK during the intervening months? Sajid Javid has announced a new ‘European Temporary Leave to Remain in the UK’ as part of the Government’s no-deal Brexit planning, but the nuts and bolts of such a policy are yet to be formalised in Parliament.

Plus – Hundreds of Statutory Instruments

There are hundreds of smaller pieces of legislation, ‘Statutory Instruments’ being passed for Brexit as large blocs. The speed at which Parliament is being forced to act raises scrutiny issues.

Lords yesterday complained that they are being advised to spend just ‘one hour’ scrutinising each Statutory Instrument. Such a vast legal undertaking provides opportunities for unnoticed changes to slip into law. Charities’ complaints on the matter raised fears of a ‘hidden hand’ of Brexit deregulation, as Byline reported earlier this month.

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