Christmas and the New Year are already dim and distant memories. Parliament is back in full swing and Brexit Bills again dominate the parliamentary timetable.
The customs and trade bills this week will be followed by the report stage of the EU (Withdrawal) bill next week.
The Liberal Democrats opposed both these Bills.
This week's bills are the first real indication of the wide-ranging and costly nature of the administrative changes that will be needed in just one area - in this case to draw up the UK’s own customs arrangements.
They are necessary because the Conservative Government have ruled out staying in the Customs Union, even though this is the simplest and safest way of guaranteeing a frictionless border between Ireland and Northern Ireland with its 275 crossings!
The Liberal Democrats opposed both these Bills. Planning for scenarios which include a highly damaging ‘no deal’ option which would cripple much of UK business and could shut down our ports and airports is an appalling waste of civil service and parliamentary time.
Next week, the EU (Withdrawal) bill is back for its final Commons outing before it heads off for months of scrutiny in the Lords. The Liberal Democrats will be seeking to secure a couple of critical changes and will be supported in our efforts by some Labour MPs.
We want to ensure that
- The Government assess the impact of either an agreement or ‘no deal’ on the UK economy and the regions and publish the assessment before a vote in Parliament,
- If Parliament rejects the agreement or the ‘no deal’ option, the Government must revoke Article 50 and exit from Brexit or seek an extension to Article 50 to enable further negotiations with the EU to take place.
Without these amendments, there can be no ‘meaningful’ vote in Parliament and Parliamentarians would be left with the PM’s ‘like it or lump it’ choice of a very bad deal or no deal at all.
Neither are acceptable to Lib Dems MPs, nor should they be to any MP of any other political persuasion!