Parliament returned this week after the summer recess. In previous sessions the run up to summer has been busy and the September sitting light. This time it’s the opposite with a Finance Bill and the long awaited Brexit Bill. Brexit stories have continued to dominate the summer media even to the point that the Brexit timetable could determine Theresa May’s tenure in No 10.
The passage of the Brexit Bill promises to be lengthy and ill tempered. The Government’s lack of a majority, even with DUP votes, means they will be looking nervously over their shoulder at their own backbenchers. The Brexit Bill will be followed by specific measures on things like agriculture and fishing. When the Shadow Fisheries Minister Holly Lynch and I spoke to fishermen in North Shields last week it was clear it’s not only about control of our waters but also accessing markets to sell fish, with Europe being our biggest buyer. But for most areas of Brexit the government is seeking sweeping blanket powers, known as Henry VIII powers, asking MP’s to trust them. Yet we now know there was no post referendum plan and Article 50 triggered a negotiating period which seems too short. I understand the argument about taking back control but instead of giving power back to Parliament or the voters the Brexit Bill would increase power to Ministers in an already over powerful Executive. That wasn’t what most people voted for.