Hansard | European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

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European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

31 January 2017
Volume 620

Relevant document: The First Report from the Committee on Exiting the European Union, The process for exiting the European Union and the Government’s negotiating objectives, HC 815.]

Second Reading

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8.41 pm
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): On 23 June, the British public voted to leave the European Union. Leaving the single market and the customs union was not on the ballot paper, and nor was the even worse option of falling back on World Trade Organisation rules, yet that is what this Conservative Government are now pursuing with no mandate.

Yesterday, the Centre for Cities published a report showing that Exeter, which voted remain, is the most dependent community in Britain on exports to the rest of the European Union. We send 70% of what we export to other EU countries and just 7% to the United States. My neighbouring city of Plymouth, which voted leave, is second on that list, sending 68% of its exports to the European Union. The south-west of England as a whole is the most dependent region in the United Kingdom on exports to the rest of the EU.

Full and unfettered access to the single market is crucial to thousands of businesses and the people whom they employ in my constituency and the south-west of England. Falling back on WTO rules would mean tariffs of up to 51% on the goods that we currently export, as well as tariffs on imports, which would put up prices in the shops even higher for the hard-pressed consumer.

Let us be clear that there is no going back once Article 50 is triggered. Unless there is a successful challenge to the current interpretation, this is a one-way street out of the EU to the hardest of hard Brexits.

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con):  I have the greatest respect for the right hon. Gentleman, who is making his argument powerfully, but does he not believe that the time for such arguments was during the referendum campaign and that now we should focus on a positive future using our entrepreneurial flair, our trading skills and our inventiveness to make a success of what lies before us?

Mr Bradshaw: Yes, that was the time for arguing the principle. This is the time for arguing about the type of Brexit that we believe is in the best interests of our country. I am afraid that some of my colleagues are clinging to the straw of the vote that the Government have promised on any deal at the end of the two-year negotiation process, yet the Government have made it absolutely clear that the only choice will be between their hard Brexit and WTO rules. This could be our only chance to prevent the hardest of Brexits or to soften its blow, and I cannot and will not vote to destroy jobs and prosperity in my constituency.

I fully accept that it is easier for me to vote against article 50 because my constituency voted remain. I have been overwhelmed by the support for my position that I have received from my constituents and Labour party members, but I completely understand that some colleagues, particularly those in areas that voted heavily to leave, will find it more difficult to do this. In the end, however, as the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) so ably reminded us, we are elected representatives who are called upon to use our own judgment about what is in the best interests of our constituencies and the country. Do we really believe that cutting ourselves off from our closest friends and main trading partners will hurt or help our constituents and our country? Do we honestly think it is in our national interests to hitch ourselves instead to this American President? We will all be judged in the future on how we voted on this Bill.

Finally, let me say that I am disappointed and saddened by the decision of my party’s leadership to try to force Labour MPs to support this Tory Bill. Even more, I regret that we are being whipped to vote to curtail our detailed debate to just three days—and this on the biggest issue of our lifetimes, which will have repercussions for generations to come. Scores of amendments to this Bill have been tabled, yet there is no chance of most of them being debated or voted upon. The situation is completely unacceptable and this is a dereliction of our duty as parliamentarians and as an Opposition.

Mr Winnick rose

Mr Bradshaw: If my hon. Friend does not mind, I will finish now.

I will therefore vote against the Government’s programme motion to curtail debate. For the first time in nearly 20 years in this place, I will be voting against my party’s three-line whip on a Bill. In doing so, I am reflecting what I believe to be the majority view of those who elected me, and the view of millions of others in Britain who oppose this Government’s choice to pursue the worst and most destructive form of Brexit, and all the negative consequences that that will bring.

 

Private Eye | FEANTA Housing Exclusion Index

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No.1428 | 30 September – 13 October 2016

Maybe it’s just as well as well the UK has voted to leave the European Union: when it comes to our national record on housing and homelessness, we seem to be heading for relegation anywya.

In just one year, the UK has fallen from 12th place to 20th in the Housing Exclusion Index, a league table ranking the 28 EU states by their capacity to house their populations adequately. Only poorer countries from Eastern Europe – such as Hungary and Bulgaria – and those worst hit by the the Eurozone crisis – Greece, Italy and Portugal – finished lower than the UK.  In fact, the UK was paced below not just Nordic countries and the rest of western Europe, but also Poland and Croatia.

This was the sharpest decline of any nation in the EU, and the damage was done mainly by cuts to Housing Benefit. So it’s just as well Prime Minister Theresa May and Work & Pensions Secretary Damien Green have pledged that there will be “no new search for cuts’ in benefits – except that budget decisions already taken will make matters worse.

Cuts to Housing Benefit already in train include a freeze in LHA [the Local Housing Allowance paid to private tenants] until 2020 regardless of any rent increases, a cap on Housing Benefit at LHA levels, and the withdrawal of automatic entitlement for under-21s.

Housing Benefit is paid to a rapidly rising number people who are in-work as well as out-of-work, and the changes will mean that it will cover less and less of their rent as time goes on. For people out-of-work, the Household Benefit Cap will be reduced to £20,000 [£23,000 in London] from November, making rents unaffordable for larger families, even in social housing and for people in expensive areas.

The Index, produced by FEANTSA [the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless] and Fondation Abbé Pierre [a French campaign against bad housing], uses European statistics on housing cost, overcrowding, the effects of tenure and other factors to monitor the quality and affordability of housing in each member state.

To save May and Green’s blushes, perhaps it’s best if Brexit does mean Brexit.

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New Scientist | Green lining? Five ways Brexit could be good for the environment

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 29 June 2016

Green lining? Five ways Brexit could be good for the environment

by Michael Le Page

A field of wheat
A field of wheat [David Madison/Getty]
Brexit may be bad in many ways, but here’s a very faint glimmer of a silver lining. If the UK leaves the European Union, it might not necessarily be a disaster for the environment.Anyone in the country who feels strongly about air pollution or carbon emissions is likely to have voted to remain in the EU. The general consensus before the vote was that if the UK left, it would be bad news for the environment.

And so it could be. But don’t despair just yet — there are five ways it might actually benefit the environment.

1. The UK wouldn’t be able to water down EU laws anymore

The biggest worry for environmentalists is that, on leaving the EU, the UK will rip up a host of laws covering everything from air pollution and wildlife conservation to recycling. Three such laws, including a directive that bans the dumping of raw sewage into waters where people swim, will definitely be lost if the UK invokes article 50.

But plenty of British MPs and businesses want the UK to remain in the single market. If the UK had a new arrangement like Norway’s, it would still be bound by almost all EU laws, but would no longer have any say in them.

This might sound like a bad thing, but in recent years, the UK has blocked or watered down many EU environmental regulations. For instance, David Cameron blocked an attempt to introduce rules to stop frackers polluting the environment or triggering too many earthquakes. Future EU environment laws may be stronger if the UK has no say.

2. Scrapping the CAP could benefit wildlife

Nearly half the EU’s budget is spent on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which sees £3.5 billion go to landowners in the UK every year. To qualify for this subsidy, land doesn’t actually have to be farmed – it just has to be kept bare, as if ready for planting or grazing. This system means that unused land that could provide valuable habitats for wildlife is often kept barren instead.

After a Brexit, many have assumed the UK government would start doling out cash to landowners instead, as promised by some Leave campaigners. But hard financial times could well mean that the government reduces these subsidies, or even stops them altogether.

This could make it hard for many farmers to continue. Those that do are likely to be pushed to use more intensive, less wildlife-friendly, farming practices. But overall, the end of the CAP might lead to more land in the UK supporting wildlife-rich habitats, because it would no longer give an incentive to land owners to keep areas that could be valuable to wildlife bare.

3. The failing carbon trading scheme could be fixed

The pound isn’t the only thing whose value is falling. The cost of polluting our atmosphere with carbon dioxide also plummeted after the Brexit vote.

British politicians were instrumental in persuading the EU to set up the Emissions Trading System in 2005, which enables big emitters like power plants to buy the right to pollute. The ETS is supposed to be the main mechanism for reducing carbon emissions in the EU, but it has failed. It has delivered an emissions price that is both too low and too volatile to bring about significant emissions reductions – the latest price crash in response to Brexit is yet more evidence of the system’s flaws.

What we need instead is a steadily rising price for polluting, to encourage long-term investment in emissions-reducing technology. While the UK could still remain part of the ETS after Brexit, it will lose its influence. With its voice gone, there could be a better chance for desperately needed reforms.

4. The UK could reap the benefits of gene editing

Imagine you have two crop varieties. One grows well and produces a high yield, but has to be drenched in pesticides to protect it from disease. The other is less desirable, but is immune to pests.

Combine them and you can get the best of both. The trouble is that doing this by conventional breeding can take decades and cost millions. But new gene-editing techniques mean we can now add a single trait – like fungal resistance – into a crop variety in less than a year.

The results of gene-editing can be indistinguishable from those of conventional breeding, leading some countries to decide that gene-edited organisms shouldn’t be subject to the same restrictions as organisms genetically modified to contain genes from other species.

The EU has been dithering about this for years. If the UK leaves, it could become free to create, cultivate and consume gene-edited organisms, including those designed to have a smaller environmental footprint.

In fact, the UK might open its doors to genetically modified organisms in general. It has long been in favour of the technology but has been held back by the EU.

5. Climate action will still continue

The process of ratifying the Paris climate agreement just got more complicated, because the EU signed up on behalf of all its members. Some renegotiation will be needed if the UK goes it alone rather than remaining part of the EU bloc.

But what matters more than formal ratification is that countries continue to cut emissions. The UK has already committed to cutting emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 under the 2008 Climate Act, which has nothing to do with the EU. While the UK has reversed a whole series of green initiatives over the past year, it still legally has to meet a set of interim targets as part of the climate act.

Last but not least, there are fears that the Brexit referendum result could lead to a global economic downturn. This would lead to lower carbon emissions, just as the a 2008 financial crisis did. Okay, it’s not exactly the most desirable way for reducing emissions, but we’re trying hard to look on the bright side.

 

Exeter venues offer save haven as emotions run high over EU vote

Leaders of arts organisations in Exeter have issued an open letter following the EU referendum, welcoming everyone regardless of their views.

Here is the full text.

A nation divided. A city divided?

17 million people vote against an establishment position. A younger generation blames an older one for giving away their futures. And there’s a 57% increase in reported hate crime.

In these turbulent times it is hard to find equilibrium. With emotions running so high, tolerance often falls by the wayside.

Culture offers an opportunity for us to celebrate our heritage, diverse and specific. It enables us to hear contrary views given equal weight, exploring complexity. And our spaces allow us to extend a welcome to all.

As leaders of cultural spaces in the city, we want to be clear that we welcome all, regardless of their ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality and political views. You are welcome to read, learn, think, dance, talk, eat, drink, laugh, cry and solve the world’s problems. You’re welcome to a safe place where you can be alone in a crowd.

This offer will always stay open.

Patrick Cunningham, Director, Exeter Phoenix

Ciara Eastell, Chief Executive, Libraries Unlimited

Paul Jepson, Artistic and Executive Director, Exeter Northcott

David Lockwood, Director, The Bike Shed Theatre

Rosie Denham, Lead Member for Economy and Culture, Exeter City Council

The Very Rev Dr Jonathan Draper, Dean of Exeter

Brexit :: Taking back control?

So we have voted for Brexit – and one set of politcal elite are claiming the UK can now #TakeBackControl from another political elite.

So who are this new political elite? Nigel Farage (Dulwich and the City), Boris Johnson (Eton and Balliol), Michael Gove (Oxford and The Times), Ian Duncan Smith (Sandhurst and the Scots Guards), John Whittingdale (Winchester and Polticial Secretary to Margaret Thatcher), Chris Grayling (Cambridge and the BBC) etc etc…[HT to @RevRichardColes]. And there are others at the centre of the Vote Leave Brexit clan.

The vote allows Iain Duncan to #TakeBackControl – remember he’s the one that decimated the safety net of #SocialSecurity by attacking the poor, the vulnerable, the caring, the infirm, the long-term sick and the terminally ill by introducing #BedroomTax, #PIP, cuts to disability payments, freezes to Local Housing Allowances and much much more.

The vote allows Chris Grayling to #TakeBackControl – remember he’s the one responsible for the cuts to #LegalAid and the huge increase in charges for Employment Tribunals which means it’s harder for workers to defend their rights against unscrupulous employers. Oh, and he’s the one that wanted the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights [the ECHR hasnothing to do with the EU] and scrap the Human Rights Act [passed in UK Parliament in 1998 to incorporates the rights set out in the ECHR into domestic British law].

 

The vote allows Michael Gove to #TakeBackControl – remember was Education Secretary he used to look after schools and education. He introduced the controversial #FreeSchool policy – whereby schools could be delivered free of Govt control, and allowing schools to be founded in areas where there was no demand for school places. So rather than the EU and free movement of workers being responsible for overcrowding in schools, it’s Gove’s policies of removing education from local government oversight. Oh and he’s now Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and he plans to continue the work of Grayling.

The vote allows John Whittingdale to #TakeBackControl – he’s the Secretary of State for Culture , Media and Sport who to change the way the BBC is governed and privatise Channel 4. He wants to oversee the abolition of Public Sector Broadcasting in the UK – currently the envy of the world.

The vote allows Liam Fox to #TakeBackControl – the former Shadow Health Secretary who called for the end to ring-fencing of the NHS budget. And as Defence Secretary in David Cameron’s first Cabinet cut our armed forces.

The vote allows Andrea Leadsom to #TakeBackControl – she’s the one that questioned who may have had doubts about climate change before she was made Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change in May 2015. In the past she has written to the Prime Minister calling for cuts to wind farm subsidies, and she criticised the pre-coalition Labour government for signing up to an EU target that called for 15 per cent of the UK’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2015. She is *persuaded* that hydraulic fracturing [fracking] is safe?

The vote allows Priti Patel to #TakeBackControl – as Minister of State for Employment she told the Institute of Directors in May 2016 that that leaving the EU would be an opportunity to cut EU social and employment protections. In particular, she gave the specific example of exempting self-employed truck drivers from Working Time Directive rights, which means they would be free to drive until they fell asleep at the wheel – not only bad for their health and safety, but for everyone else on the road.

The vote allows Theresa Villiers to #TakeBackControl – she’s the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who refused to answer questions in the House of Commons about the impact of a #Brexit vote as opposition members stressed the importance of the EU to the Northern Ireland economy. We already know that border controls would be introduced between North and South, and today there have been renewed calls for a united Ireland.

The vote allows Boris Johnson to #TakeBackControl – you know him, the intelligent *buffoon* who will only do what’s best for BoJo.

The vote allows Nigel Farage to #TakeBackControl – he’s the one who earlier today claimed victory ‘without a single shot being fired”. Really, Nigel!

Rant over