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Baroness Hayter: Making amends to Brexit legislation

4 min read

Shadow Spokesperson for Exiting the European Union Baroness Dianne Hayter writes about Labour Lords' strategy for improving the Article 50 Bill.

My in-box is overflowing with e-mails, many beseeching me to stop Article 50 in its track.

Much of the correspondence is from EU nationals, who fear being tossed out of a country that they consider "home". Some from UK nationals fearing being “stranded” elsewhere in Europe, having lost EU citizenship rights. Some from 'Remain' activists, who cannot believe they lost the referendum and think the House of Lords is the place to overturn a vote they don’t accept or to introduce a second such ballot - presumably in the hope that vote would go their way. And the rest from those who think the final outcome of difficult negotiations between the UK '1' and the EU '27' can be prescribed in this short Bill.

In addressing all of these issues, I am mindful that those who were on the winning side of the referendum have not been sending me e-mails. Yet their views must also be heard and respected. 

Perhaps they are silent because they cannot believe an unelected chamber, as we are in the Lords, would overturn last June's vote? Or because they remain confident that the UK will be better off outside of the EU? Perhaps they trust the government to deliver what they voted for? Or is it that many do not have ready access to e-mail during the day or to peers' email addresses?
For me however, as I prepare to wind up on behalf of Labour's Lords opposition late on Tuesday night – after a debate in which 190 Peers will have spoken over two days – I am guided by four strong sentiments.  
First, my continued personal regret at the outcome of the referendum. 

Second, my acceptance that Parliament - my own party included - voted for a referendum and so we must respect and implement the result. 

Third, the fact that the Article 50 Bill is only the starting gun, to open the negotiations between our government and those countries remaining in the EU - and whose interests will be represented by the European Council and Commission. 
Fourth – and most importantly – there are serious flaws in both the Bill and our government's stance in its negotiating objectives, which we will robustly challenge and seek to change.
Seven of Labour Lords' eight frontbench amendments cover a range of issues on which we want the government to think again and change tack, to ensure: tariff free trade with the EU27 and cooperation on science, research, the environment, anti-terrorism and security, and retaining social, economic, consumer and workers’ rights; continued involvement in Euratom; the rights of EU nationals already in the UK; peace in Northern Ireland; regular reporting to Parliament; better Impact Assessments; and the involvement of the devolved assemblies. 

As for our eighth amendment, this seeks to write onto the face of the Bill the undertaking given in the Commons that both Houses of Parliament will have a vote on the outcome of the negotiations before the European Parliament gives its verdict. I am confident that the Government can be persuaded of the merits of this and most, if not all, of our other proposals.

Whatever happens in the next few weeks, the hard work of the Lords will not finish with this Bill. Our EU Committees are producing fine analyses of the options for withdrawal and the UK's post-Brexit economy. And the so called 'Great' Repeal Bill (more accurately an 'Entrenchment' Bill, putting EU regulations into UK law) will demand detailed scrutiny when it arrives later this year. 

Meanwhile, the Labour Lords team will scrutinise closely what emerges during the Brexit negotiations. To benefit the whole of our country, the new arrangements must assist those areas and regions which have fared less well from globalisation, and retain our key service, intellectual, creative, higher education, scientific, financial and legal industries, airline access to EU destinations, consumer protections across borders and, crucially, human rights for all of our citizens. 

Baroness Dianne Hayter is Shadow Brexit Minister in the House of Lords. She tweets @HayteratLords

For details of the Labour Lords frontbench amendments, visit:

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