Concern is growing that Parliament will be “railroaded” by Theresa May into backing her Brexit deal with minimal levels of debate and discussion, a senior Labour peer warns today, while a leading Conservative MP says that Brexit is being used to damage British institutions and damage public trust in politics.
The cross-party warning comes as fears are growing that Theresa May will attempt to treat any Brexit deal in same way as emergency anti-terrorism legislation and ram it through Parliament in days or hours.
Labour’s Lord Andrew Adonis commenting ahead of a debate in the House of Lords, said:
“There is growing concern that Parliament is going to be railroaded by the government into voting on Brexit within days of the signing of a provisional withdrawal agreement after the European Council this month or next. This would be frankly disgraceful.
“Parliament typically requires a standard 12-week consultation period not only for new policies but even for the most minor of regulatory changes. Similarly, local councils are given eight weeks to determine planning applications. Yet we are told that the parliamentary votes on the most important issues to be decided by Parliament in this generation, whether we leave the EU, whether there should be a People’s Vote, and whether the exit terms are acceptable – could be held within a few weeks or even days of the Prime Minister publishing a draft treaty.
“As Attlee famously said, democracy is government by discussion. There can be no credible or properly democratic decision-making by Parliament on Brexit unless MPs and peers have sufficient time to study and discuss the Brexit terms, and seek advice and views from the public.”
Research from the People’s Vote campaign, drawing on information compiled by the House of Commons library shows that major pieces of European legislation were given significant amounts of legislative time in the past:
- European Communities Bill 1972 (took Britain into the EEC) – 39 days of debate (30 in Commons)
- Single European Act 1986 – 12 days (7 in Commons)
- Maastricht Treaty Bill 1992/93 – 41 days (29 in Commons)
- Amsterdam Treaty Bill 1997/98 – 16 days (8 days in Commons)
- Nice Treaty Bill 2001 – 11 days (5 days in Commons)
- Lisbon Treaty Bill 2007/08 – 25 days (13 days in Commons)
Conservative MP and former minister, Guto Bebb, said:
“Brexit is about more than economics and the way it is being handled now poses a threat to the integrity of our democratic institutions and traditions. Centuries of procedure and practice are at risk from a Government that is being driven to desperation by a small group of extremists in the ERG.
“Brexit is eroding public trust in democratic institutions in a disturbing manner. Ramming legislation through Parliament without proper debate would be an appalling way to behave.
“Conservatives should not be party to such behaviour but should instead insist on respect for Parliament and what it represents in public life.”