Cross-party MPs united yesterday (December 13) to preserve parliamentary sovereignty by preventing the government from dictating the terms of Brexit.
Despite last minute concessions, Theresa May suffered a humiliating defeat after MPs voted for a “meaningful vote” on the end Brexit deal.
Unite said the Prime Minister should learn from the loss by changing her government’s shambolic approach to Brexit, clarifying what a final deal will look like and halting her attempts to bypass Parliament.
Win for parliamentary sovereignty
“This vote was an important step in ensuring the parliamentary sovereignty so often cited as the reason to leave the EU is actually enacted. MPs from across the House have made clear the government’s placations and promises are not a replacement for proper democratic process,” Unite director of international Simon Dubbins said.
“The EU’s elected representatives are not excluded from having a say on the deal and neither should ours be. MPs have shown that they will not abandon their primary duty of putting the interests of the nation first by allowing Theresa May’s government to dictate the terms of Brexit.”
The Prime Minister lost the vote by 309 to 305, after Labour voted in favour of an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill tabled by Tory MP Dominic Grieve and supported by ten other Tory members.
The amendment scuppered government plans to use controversial “Henry VIII” powers – which allow ministers to circumvent parliamentary scrutiny – to turn parts of a final EU deal into UK law.
MPs must now approve the end deal before it can be enshrined in legislation.
Commenting on the vote, Labour MP Mary Creagh said, “This place is not a rubber-stamp. We are not nodding donkeys.”
The vote put the Conservative’s civil war on public display, with Tory MPs queuing up to defy the government.
Despite a last minute climbdown by justice minister Dominic Raab, who promised Henry VIII powers would not be used until MPs had a meaningful vote, Grieve refused to rescind the amendment because the concession was “too late”.
Before the vote, reports emerged of a Tory whip reducing a female MP to tears in a desperate attempt to get her to back the government.
Tory MP Anna Soubry, who voted against the government, said, “It is right that the whips should exert pressure, cajole people — that’s perfectly proper in my view.
“But bullying, reducing colleagues to tears and making them shake is not acceptable. It has got to stop.”
Unite international director Dubbins called on Theresa May to rethink her whole Brexit strategy and stop her attempts to subvert Parliament.
He said, “The Prime Minister must learn from this defeat and take a different approach – one that ends the crippling uncertainty emanating from government, urgently makes clear what a deal will look like and works with Parliament instead of trying to ignore it.”
Meanwhile, Unite also issued a warning over growing Brexit-related concerns about the future relationship between the UK and Euratom, the umbrella body for civil nuclear safeguards across Europe.
The House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee this week released a worrying report on the “profound” impact of the UK’s departure from the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).
Unite acting national officer for energy Peter McIntosh said the union shares the concerns of the BEIS select committee about the impact of Brexit on the UK’s membership of Euratom.
He said membership of Euratom is a red line for Unite.
“Our membership benefits UK trade by having access to the EU, the world’s largest market for nuclear materials and technology. It ensures that UK nuclear industry personnel can work in Europe and vice versa. It also guarantees the safeguarding of nuclear materials and that the UK meets it international obligations,” McIntosh explained.
“It allows the UK to participate in important EU research and development projects. Euratom hardly got a mention in last year’s referendum debates, but if we don’t have a coherent and concrete policy on this, it could affect such everyday aspects of life as X-rays in the NHS.”
He added, “Euratom is not an exotic acronym, but an organisation that impacts on people’s daily lives – and that’s why the future UK membership of Euratom will swiftly move up the Brexit agenda.”