Welcome to the Weekly Whip. Your one-stop shop for Lib Dem Parliamentary updates, covering the week that was and the week to come.
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Weekly Whip w/c 7th December
Back to Brexit: The end of the transition period draws nearer and Lib Dem MPs demand clarity from Ministers on what this means for the future of the United Kingdom.
Monday 7th December
In British politics, it has become fashionable for the year’s drama to cumulate around the Christmas period. If you were hoping for a quiet lead up to Christmas, especially after last year’s historic general election, I’m sorry to inform you that the Brexit beast has resurrected from dormancy during the global pandemic, and the turmoil of deal or no deal is playing out in Parliament.
Monday started off like any other, with the consideration of Urgent Questions and Ministerial Statements from the weekend.
The first UQ brought Penny Mourdant from the Cabinet Office to update the House on the status of negotiations between the UK and the EU. Wendy Chamberlain took the opportunity to raise the Cabinet Office’s own “reasonable worse case scenario” document, which states that, in the result of a no-deal Brexit, the supply of medicines and medical devices could be reduced by 40%.
The Cabinet Office's leaked 'reasonable worst case scenario' document in the event of a no deal Brexit said the supply of medicines and medical devices could be reduced by up to 40%. The government must come clean about which products might be affected. pic.twitter.com/etPLvsH8In— Wendy Chamberlain MP (@wendychambLD) December 8, 2020
Shortly after, Layla Moran virtually asked the Minister for the Foreign Office, during another UQ, about providing routes for young Hong Kong citizens without BN(O) passports to reside in the UK.
Earlier today I spoke up for young Hong Kongers who need our protection. The Youth Mobility Scheme is chosen by lottery - we should not be leaving such things to chance alone. https://t.co/WwcRBj8igX— Layla Moran 🔶 (@LaylaMoran) December 7, 2020
Monday’s main business concerned the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill. A nightmarish Bill in tandem with Brexit that, at this stage, breaks international law and our obligations to the Withdrawal Agreement. It also seriously undercuts the common frameworks process for internal markets that was agreed by the devolved administrations in light of our transition out of the European Union.
After the Commons passed this Bill not long ago, which Lib Dem MPs rejected, the House of Lords ripped apart the Bill with 60+ amendments which removed the offending parts of the Bill. Upon the Bill’s return, the government made their intentions clear: to completely disregard the Lords Amendments and recreate their original Bill as intended.
After various votes to protect the Lords’ reasonable changes, which failed, ‘ping-pong’ followed throughout the week, meaning that the Bill was swapped between the two Houses until an agreement was reached. (We await the outcome next week.)
Yesterday I spoke on the UK Internal Market Bill. I highlighted the Government’s irresponsible efforts to destabilise our negotiations with the EU at this crucial stage and the damaging impact that this will have on the UK’s international reputation in the future. pic.twitter.com/Or8V2hLqxu— Sarah Olney (@sarahjolney1) December 8, 2020
Tuesday 8th December
For a short period of time on Tuesday, Parliament had a momentary respite from Brexit to talk about the Covid-19 vaccination rollout. The excellent news of the first vaccinations brought the House together in solidarity to reflect on the challenging year that has been, and Matt Hancock was confident that measures may be lifted in the Spring with a view to some normality during the Summer.
Lib Dem health spokesperson, Munira Wilson, reminded the Secretary of State of the huge logistical challenge that must be overcome, pointing out manufacturers have already noted some setbacks on deliveries.
Really excited to see first vaccination today!— Munira Wilson MP (@munirawilson) December 8, 2020
Given Govt optimism that we will get to enjoy the summer holidays, I asked @MattHancock today how many of us might expect to be vaccinated by next summer. Still lots of uncertainty #vaccine pic.twitter.com/4BfGpgrMU2
Back to Brexit, alongside the Internal Market Bill, the government also introduced the Taxation (post-Transition Period) Bill, which gives the government the power to implement the necessary changes in law to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol. However, despite the fact that the Commons was going to scrutinise this Bill on Wednesday, all 100+ pages of the Bill were published on Tuesday night, giving MPs barely any time to digest the Bill and the implications. The government have left their homework until the last minute and democracy is suffering as a result. Alistair Carmichael would speak to this the next day.
Wednesday 9th December
Surprise surprise, Brexit was back on the menu on Tuesday. After lots of speculation about the negotiations, Michael Gove came to update the House on the status of the Withdrawal Agreement following the announcement between the UK-EU Joint Committee. Following an agreement, the UK will drop the clauses from Brexit legislation that break international law. The bar for decency has never been lower. Tim Farron, Christine Jardine, and Wendy Chamberlain all challenged the Minister on the current situation.
The Government's chaotic, bungled approach to EU negotiations is putting British family farmers at risk. pic.twitter.com/xXIP3MbJ7z— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) December 9, 2020
The main business of the day was the Taxation Bill (the Bill that got published the night before). Alistair Carmichael and Stephen Farry up in the Chamber to discuss the Bill’s Northern Ireland implications. Stephen is the MP for North Down in Northern Ireland and is a member of the Alliance Party, the Liberal Democrat sister party in NI.
Yesterday, on the latest rushed Brexit bill...— Alistair Carmichael (@amcarmichaelMP) December 10, 2020
“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!” pic.twitter.com/941MbgIn1P
Thursday 10th December
After the week’s high-pressure negotiations with the EU, another UQ dragged the government to give an update to the House on their progress. The atmosphere in the House was much gloomier than earlier in the week, where the same UQ was asked on Monday. This time around, Tim Farron spoke about businesses that have had to stretch and adjust to the impact of Covid-19 and the poor government planning and uncertainty around Brexit. They are the backbone of our economy and need clarity.
Businesses have spent the last 9 months battling to survive and are now 3 weeks away from the Brexit transition period ending with massive uncertainty remaining.— Tim Farron (@timfarron) December 10, 2020
The Government must secure an adjustment period so businesses are not clobbered by changes they aren't prepared for. pic.twitter.com/RiNxkwd0DX
After a quick hour debate on common frameworks process and the new Lords Amendments to the Internal Market Bill, followed by votes, Thursday afternoon was reserved for a general debate on the future of the high street. This is especially important after the recent news of the collapse of Arcadia and other retailers. Tim and Wera both took the time to reflect on the impact of the pandemic on their local high streets in Cumbria and Bath respectively.
The current support grants don't go anyway near covering the huge costs local businesses face and many are on the verge of closing for good.— Tim Farron (@timfarron) December 11, 2020
The Government must give more support to hospitality and retail so that we have healthy businesses, ready to lead our economic recovery. pic.twitter.com/j56E1YQZ3b
What you may have missed!
Munira Wilson’s Westminster Hall debate on the ‘Excluded’: those who have fallen through the cracks of the government’s support schemes during the Covid-19 pandemic.
🔴 LIVE SHORTLY— Munira Wilson MP (@munirawilson) December 9, 2020
I'll be leading a debate very shortly on those #excluded from Government support during #Covid19. Just waiting to go in to #WestminsterHall.
Watch this thread below ⬇️#ExcludedDebate pic.twitter.com/qQoQdpPMCR
Next week (and this is not a joke), anything could happen. The Parliamentary business is entirely dependent on the weekend’s Brexit negotiation developments.