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Here’s a summary of what we’ve been doing recently – a lot has happened over the past weeks.
Over 450 amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill have been tabled, almost all of them aimed at reining in a government hungry for power and the opportunities that go with it to perpetuate itself without the scrutiny and control of Parliament.
As we have recently written “It’s not just the 3 Knights clause that is important”, the threat posed to the country and Parliament is not restricted to the immediate issues raised by the UK leaving the EU. The powers that the government is seeking in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill go far beyond that.
The number of amendments tabled is some measure of our MPs’ concerns over what the government is doing in its attempts to side-line parliament.
We have also had the mysterious case of the 58 sector impact studies. They did exist but were secret, until the government was forced by Parliament to hand them over, when suddenly there weren’t 58 separate studies at all. It now seems that they are just a collection of quantitative and qualitative observations on the possible impact of the UK leaving the EU.
Seems possible they might have been written on the back of pizza boxes and paper napkins! That in itself raises a number of important issues about things that happen without full parliamentary oversight and control.
While this has been going on we have been discussing with our solicitors the Legal Milestones we published back in February “Legal Milestones on the Road to Brexit – The People’s Challenge Guide”. We will be updating them to take into account what is now known and to look at where and when we could usefully initiate or support legal challenges.
We’ll be publishing a revised Legal Milestones document shortly and publishing an FAQ on the broad criteria we use when deciding to initiate or support legal challenges.
One of the challenges we were considering supporting was to force the disclosure of the 58 sector impact studies.
For the time being this has been overtaken by events in Parliament, with Labour using a “humble Address” motion to force the Government’s hand to disclose these impact studies (if they actually exist). We will continue to monitor the situation and if it were to prove useful we would support challenge(s) seeking information and transparency.
At the moment the fight for the sovereignty of our Parliament is being waged in Parliament itself, with MPs from all parties determined to rein in the government and prevent a quite extraordinary power grab by Whitehall. As such it is the very antithesis of the “Taking Back Control” that so many in the government are arguing that people voted for in the referendum.
While this fight is going on in Parliament we don’t see any immediate prospect of a challenge based on “The Three Knights Opinion” being initiated. But a week is a long time in politics, to use a phrase attributed (perhaps apocryphally) to Harold Wilson, and we will be keeping a particularly close watch on this.
So far the UK/EU negotiations on citizenship rights have focused on protecting the rights of the two expatriate groups (EU27 citizens in the UK and UK citizens in EU27 countries).
But outside these two groups there is a very large number of people who have made significant commitments based on the expectation that fundamental EU citizenship rights will always exist.
For instance, not all of the people who own property or business in France are resident there. This explains in part the vast discrepancy between the official figures of 200,000 – 300,000 UK citizens resident in France and the 600,000 – 900,000 who have a significant financial interest there. Similar proportions for Spain.
Of course, none of this takes into account the significant impact that Brexit will have on UK citizens resident in the UK who work or trade across the EU, either as individuals or as proprietors of small/medium sized businesses.
As a first step we have written to Messrs Barnier, Juncker, Tajani, Tusk and Verhofstadt to highlight how some groups of EU citizens are being discriminated against in the negotiations because their situations are apparently not even being considered.
Also, we have pointed out that “like for like” concessions by the UK and the EU will not give equal benefit to all current EU citizens post-Brexit.
This is one of the threads we’re building on. The next step is to set up meetings in Brussels to present our case in more detail.
We are also taking similar steps to widen the arguments presented to our parliamentarians.
EU (Withdrawal) Bill – as presented 13th July 2017 https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2017-2019/0005/18005.pdf
EU (Withdrawal) Bill – amendments as at 10th November 2017 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2017-2019/0005/amend/euwithdrawal_rm_cwh_1110.pdf
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Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.