With only days to go until the Bill that will give the Prime Minister the power to trigger Article 50 and take us out of the EU is debated in Parliament, there is still no sign of the White Paper Theresa May promised MPs to allow them see and shape her plans.
The courts have made clear that MPs, not Theresa May alone, are in charge of the decision to trigger Article 50. So she has introduced a Bill to take this power away from them, and they are about to surrender to her.
She has promised MPs a vote on the deal she reaches with the EU. This is not good enough. By the time MPs are allowed to vote, it will come down to a choice of her deal or no deal, and it will be too late to turn away.
She has promised to publish a White Paper setting out her plans. But the White Paper has not yet appeared, so MPs will be expected on 31st January to agree to a plan they haven’t been allowed to see.
This is the most important change to happen to the UK since the end of the Second World War. It will deeply affect all of our lives, yet it is being rushed through at a pace normally reserved for exceptional emergencies.
There is no rush here, only Theresa May’s own self-imposed timetable. We should all, whether we want to leave the EU or remain members, be worried by this unnecessary haste, and by the attempt to take away from our elected representatives any possibility of shaping or controlling our exit deal.
Heidi Alexander has tabled a “reasoned amendment” to the Article 50 Bill that would, if successful, block the Bill at this stage. This won’t stop us exiting the EU and it won’t prevent the Bill being reintroduced later. But it will allow vital time for the Government to produce the White Paper it has promised, and for MPs to take a full role in shaping our future.
Whoever your MP is, and whatever their party, please write to them and ask them to support Heidi Alexander’s amendment, and to retain control of the UK’s departure from the EU on our behalf. Here is a template letter you can use if you want:
I write to ask you to support the reasoned amendment being tabled by Heidi Alexander MP at the Second Reading of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. Please also support any amendments that allow you to retain control of the process, ensure you receive regular reports on progress, and that there is an escape route should negotiations not result in a better deal for the UK than we currently have.
The courts have affirmed that the decision to trigger Article 50 is your responsibility, and it is for you to decide when, if ever, is the appropriate moment for this to take place.
As my MP, I trust you to take an active role in debate surrounding this matter, and to act in the best interests of the UK and your constituents. Meaningful debate on this issue relies on publication of the Government’s White Paper on Brexit, with full information about the UK’s objectives and the impact of the possible outcomes. We are rushing headlong into a huge constitutional upheaval, and there is no rush to do this, only the Prime Minister’s self-imposed unrealistic timetable.
It is clear that we cannot safely proceed with exiting the EU at this time and I call on you to ensure this Bill does not proceed.
Please write to your MP today.