First Parliamentary Defeat for UK PM Boris Johnson
Yesterday, UK PM Boris Johnson was faced with his first parliamentary defeat since the December election that granted him an overwhelming majority. The House of Lords, which is the unelected upper house of Parliament, is where he suffered not one but three defeats in one day. More is expected today as the Brexit bill is being amended. Given the 80+ majority Johnson’s Tories command in the lower house, the House of Lords is the only way for pro-EU members to attempt to force minor concessions.
First Parliamentary Defeat for UK PM Boris Johnson
Liberal Democrat Jonny Oates proposed an amendment to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which will grant EU citizens a physical proof of status. The UK government proposed a digital proof and remains committed to it. Home Office minister Lady Williams of Trafford defended the digital copy as it cannot be lost. She added that “The government is adamant that we must avoid the situation where years down the line EU citizens who have built their lives here find themselves struggling to prove their rights and entitlements in the UK.” The amendment passed with a vote of 270 to 229.
A significant amendment passed with a vote of 241 to 205 regarding the ability to overturn European laws. The power is currently granted to the Supreme Court and the Scottish the High Court of Justiciary, but Johnson’s amendment allowed for ministers to direct lower courts to overturn rulings of the European Court of Justice. The Lords Constitution Committee noted that “Allowing lower courts to reinterpret EU case law risks causing significant legal uncertainty that would be damaging to individuals and companies.” The third defeat referred to decisions about EU law to the Supreme Court.
Labour Leaders Urges PM Johnson to Listen
Angela Smith, the Labour Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords, urged PM Johnson and his Tories to listen to concerns. She stated that “I hope the prime minister and his colleagues will not think that they can get every detail of every bill right the first time, and recognize that the second chamber is useful. A large Commons majority means the government is guaranteed to get its legislation through, but it would be supremely arrogant to dismiss all scrutiny.” Each amendment passed by the House of Lords is sent back to the House of Commons, where it is expected to face defeat.
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Brexit Transition Battle Lines
The UK is leaving the EU on January 31st 2020, and the transition period will last until December 31st 2020. During this time, the UK continues to abide by EU rules and regulations but is free to start negotiation its trade deals. The UK will seek to break away from restrictive rules governing the EU, and both sides are drawing battle lines. EU officials have already pointed out that there will be bad blood as negotiations will start. PM Johnson passed an amendment, which makes an extension of the transition period illegal.
This means that both sides will have to concentrate their efforts on the most crucial items and delay other negotiations. A free-trade deal grabs the media attention, but other critical issues are likely to provide stumbling blocks. One such issue will be fishing, an area British fishermen have complained about for a while. EU fishes roughly 60% of available stock in UK waters, which is a development PM Johnson vows to correct. Foreign vessels, especially from France, depend on access to UK waters. The UK has a strong position to shape discussions in this area.
The financial sector will be another tough battleground. Many EU companies, especially in Germany, are depending on the UK financial sector. The preferred approach to solve issues is through 40 equivalence assessments. Optimists plan to have them in place by July. Security is another area where the EU depends on the UK. Other sectors where both sides will have to find common ground include data protection, transport, and energy.
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