Corbyn, Sturgeon Set Up Barriers to Brexit Plans

  • Labour leader seeks more guarantees for workers, human rights
  • Sturgeon says Scotland can’t support EU withdrawal bill

Opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said they oppose Prime Minister Theresa May’s European Union withdrawal bill in its current form, underlining the challenge for the government in passing a key piece of Brexit legislation.

The bill to enshrine all EU laws in domestic legislation to smooth Britain’s departure from the bloc returns to the House of Commons for debate on Tuesday and Wednesday, before it’s passed to the upper chamber, the House of Lords. Labour submitted five amendments for debate.

Jeremy Corbyn

Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

“We’ve got the vote coming up this week on the EU withdrawal bill, we’ve set down our lines on that, which are about democratic accountability, are about protection of workers, environment and consumer rights, and are about human rights across Europe,” Corbyn said in an interview on ITV’s “Peston on Sunday” show. “If our tests are not met by the government, then we will vote against the bill.”

Sturgeon said she isn’t ready to recommend approval of the bill by Scottish lawmakers.

While May’s alliance with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party means her minority administration has the votes to win, she’s vulnerable to any rebellion by “Remain”-supporting Tories. In December, they defied her by forcing through a provision for Parliament to hold a meaningful vote on the final terms of the Brexit deal with the EU.

Rebels Quelled

No rebellion is expected in the Commons this week, according to two Conservative lawmakers with knowledge of the situation.

After clearing the Commons, the bill must pass the Lords, where peers are more hostile to Brexit than their counterparts in the lower chamber. 

“There is a large majority of people in the Lords who feel that Brexit is a national disaster,” Dick Newby, leader of the Liberal Democrats’ 100 peers in the upper chamber, said Tuesday in an interview. He indicated that peers will seek to change the bill, depending on what concessions he government makes during the Commons debate.

The final law must also be approved by the semi-autonomous legislatures of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, under a non-binding convention known as “legislative consent.” That consent may not be forthcoming.

Nicola Sturgeon on Jan. 14.

Photographer: Jeff Overs/BBC

‘Power Grab’

“Right now, I cannot and will not recommend to the Scottish Parliament approval of the withdrawal bill because it’s a power grab on the powers of the Scottish Parliament,” Sturgeon said on Sunday on BBC television’s “Andrew Marr Show.” She acknowledged that a vote in the Scottish chamber isn’t binding, but warned that it’s “unthinkable” the Parliament in London would ignore it.

“We’ve never been in this territory before,” Sturgeon said. She and her Welsh counterpart, Carwyn Jones, in July attacked the bill and have yet to reach a compromise with May.

The government on Tuesday proposed its own amendments to allay some of the rebel concerns. The proposals would limit the powers of ministers to make revisions without consulting lawmakers, grant additional law-changing ability to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and let citizens and businesses begin legal proceedings to appeal against changes in the law for three months after Britain leaves the EU.

New Vote

Debate in Britain is also increasing on whether or not to hold a referendum on the final withdrawal terms secured by May. Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, one of the architects of “Leave” side, said on Thursday he thought there should be another vote to settle the question for another generation. In an interview in the Observer newspaper on Sunday, however, he said he worried that the result could be undone. “Unless we get ourselves organized, we could lose the historic victory that was Brexit,” he said.

While polls indicate Britons aren’t in favor of holding another vote, a recent ComRes survey showed that in a second vote 55 percent would vote “Remain,” compared with the 48 percent who did so in 2016.

Corbyn on Sunday refused to say he’d never support another vote, but stressed that “we are not supporting or calling for a second referendum.” Labour peer Andrew Adonis, a former cabinet minister who quit as May’s infrastructure czar last month, took a different tone.

“My view is that a referendum on Mrs. May’s terms is now inevitable,” Adonis told ITV. “The British people had the first say on whether or not we should start this process of leaving. They didn’t know what the terms were going to be, when they know what the terms are going to be, they should have the final say.”

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