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Brexit debate on Henry VIII powers

14th December 2017

The vote last night was not about stopping or delaying Brexit; neither was it a reflection on the performance of the Prime Minister, who I have publicly congratulated on a remarkable deal on the EU Withdrawal phase one negotiations.

This vote was about how we organise the constitutional mechanics of leaving the EU and specifically addressing the unprecedented powers that the Bill would have given to Ministers to implement the withdrawal agreement with the EU. These are known as Henry VIII powers, where the government could push through any kind of future arrangement that we may have with the EU, without Parliamentary consent.

The amendment which I supported, provides that these Henry VIII powers only activate after Parliament has passed a Bill approving the terms of Brexit.

In a nutshell, we need to ask: if Brexit is meant to be about handing back control to Parliament - then why did this Brexit Bill attempt to remove power from Parliament and hand it to the Executive?

In my view, and with my support, Brexit will happen. We shall now be starting what will certainly be a complicated series of negotiations as to the form of our future relationship with the European Union. Looking forward I will be mindful that we should manage this process in a way that neither upsets the UK constitution nor hinders the government’s ability to negotiate decent terms.

It would be so much better also if we took some of the steam out of what is a serious debate. In this regard I was somewhat bemused to be labelled a “malcontent” by one national newspaper, not least given that this was the first time I had voted against my Party in my 16 years in Parliament. But having in place the right democratic machinery to deliver Brexit will be fundamental to the legitimacy of any deal that we have on our leaving and also our key future relationship with the EU.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

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