George Freeman rejects mischievous amendments to delay the Brexit Bill

13th June 2018

George Freeman: Brexit Bill is “to give effect to the continuity of the law” and should not be used to table mischievous amendments that would be better dealt with in forthcoming Trade and Customs Bills.

I have a lot of sympathy with the points that my right hon. and learned Friend is making, and indeed those that the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) made earlier about the EMA, but will he not agree that the purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the continuity of the law at the moment? We have a Trade and a customs Bill coming after the summit. Is that not where these issues should substantively be addressed? In my view, these are mischievous amendments dealing with substantive issues with which I have a lot of sympathy, but this is the wrong Bill to give effect to them.

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, and I understand it—it is a feature of this place that we sometimes debate and vote on issues that are peripheral to the main point—but there comes a point when one has to stand up and be counted. If it is not this week, it has to be next week, and the truth is I am really anxious for my constituents and anxious about our general direction of travel. I respect the decision in the referendum, but we are closing off options as to how we conduct future relationships, in ways that are utterly damaging to ourselves. In a sense, some of our debates yesterday, and the negotiation I am going to conduct—successfully, I hope—in a moment, are all linked to these fixations, and the consequences for us are really damaging. Yes, of course, the EEA amendment is rather flawed, but it has the merit, unlike Labour’s “motherhood and apple pie” amendment, which I cannot possibly support because it is motherhood and apple pie, of at least having some bite, and today is the day I shall be voting for it.

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