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Monday, February 26, 2018

Is the Government seeking to avoid scrutiny on Brexit legislation?

The Independent reports that rebel Labour and Tory MPs are accusing the government of seeking to avoid proper scrutiny by reclassifying key Brexit legislation as a Finance Bill, thus preventing the House of Lords from amending it.

The row centres on what was announced in the Queen’s Speech last year as the “Customs Bill”, but which was renamed the Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Bill, when it was eventually presented to the Commons.

The draft carries a preamble showing the Government wants the legislation to carry “supply bill” status, which according to parliamentary privilege would make it harder, but not impossible, for the Lords to change it.

But it also makes it more probable that it could be designated “money bill” status, normally reserved for taxation and finance bills and something which more comprehensively blocks Lords action.

Ultimately, designation of money bill status is an issue for the Speaker, but it is understood that the Government believe that the bill should naturally attract money bill status because it deals with issues of taxation, relating to VAT and trade tariffs.

That is disputed by the Brexit rebels because the bill also sets out broader powers, like creating customs relations with other countries after Brexit:

The Government has already run in to trouble in the Lords with its legislation to trigger Article 50, launching Brexit, and is suspected to face challenges from peers to another piece of Brexit legislation, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, in the coming months.

The Liberal Democrats are preparing to launch a bid to swamp that piece of legislation in the Lords with at least 500 challenges, stymieing it and potentially the push towards Brexit.

One minister told The Independent: “Trying to get legislation designated a money bill like this is a dangerous thing to play strategy with.

“The ministers heading the bill wouldn’t do it without arguable grounds, but arguable ground is not necessarily solid ground.

“It would certainly help us if it is a money bill.”

All of this matters because of those in the House of Lords who might want to use this bill to make a stand over trade arrangements like the customs union and trade remedies such as anti-dumping powers and unfair foreign subsidies.

The Government are running scared and are trying to use every trick in the book to get their preferred version of Brexit passed without amendment.

So much for Parliament taking back control.
There is an interesting article about the European Research Group (should be anti-European) in thepinprick.com/2018/02/22 enemies-of-the-people-who-was-behind-the-letter-to-downing-street as to motives behind some of the Brexiteers.
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