The EU Withdrawal Bill: A Paradox Too Far?

[Guest article by Jim Blythe]

Implementing the referendum result has certainly produced a fine collection of paradoxes – the Irish border, the Gibraltar question, the “Divorce Bill” and so forth. One of Theresa May’s finest, though, is the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The problem is that leaving the EU’s regulatory system means that much of the law we have come to know and trust will no longer apply. Estimates vary, but one MP has said that it amounts to 83,000 pages of law which will have to be rewritten – and if all that has to be debated in Parliament, nothing else will get done for the next decade or so. The alternative is to expand the Civil Service and get them to rewrite everything, which of course takes democratic accountability out of the picture – taking back control rings a bit hollow if that happens. Professor Michael Dougan told the Treasury Select Committee as much, even before the referendum was held.

But we are where we are. So either Parliament will be caught in a blockage even DynoRod couldn’t clear, or something else will have to happen – hence the EU Withdrawal Bill. This Bill aims to give powers to rewrite law directly to the various Ministries – and Parliament are not happy about being cut out of the picture.

Their response has been to add a lot of amendments onto the Bill – it has been nicknamed “the Christmas tree” by wags in the Strangers’ Bar, because everyone is hanging something on it. Of the 480-plus amendments now dangling from its boughs, two in particular might offer a Get Out Of Jail Free card to Theresa May’s government.

The first, from Chris Leslie, would give Parliament a vote on the final deal, with an option to ask for Article 50 back and remain in the EU. This would come into force should a fixed exit day be set. The second, by Conservative MP and former attorney-general Dominic Grieve, has the same effect – Parliament would be able to vote down any deal worse than membership (which is to say, any deal) and reverse Article 50.  These amendments, NC4 and NC7, will be debated soon and will be voted on.

MPs are, of course, difficult to predict. The situation is complex. The Government is relatively powerless, since they lack an overall majority and can easily lose the support of the loonies from the DUP. The frog might jump either way.

Having said that, either of the two amendments would return Parliamentary sovereignty, and MPs do like to have power. They would also allow Theresa May to say, “Well, we gave it our best shot, but those naughty MPs voted it down and guess what? We have no choice but withdraw Article 50, at least until after the next General Election.” Which they would hope to win in a landslide.

It is obvious that leaving the EU carries too many paradoxes, not to mention the golden idol of the economy, which is front and centre of the debate. These amendments allow the Tories to escape with a single bound – and it’s up to Remain supporters to provide the ammunition allowing them to vote for the amendments.

Looks like a great time to be lobbying MPs.

Meaningful Vote Amendment 7

We’ve been informed that the debate and vote on Dominic Grieve’s amendment for a meaningful vote is likely to be on 13th December. 

We particularly need to influence Conservative MPs – our analysis tells us we only need about 10 more Conservative supporters to secure the vote.

Many of you have already written to your MP – thank you; but new developments every day show how important it is that Parliament has a meaningful vote on the final deal. Daily reports show the huge mountain of problems the government has to overcome just to talk about the future. The lack of analysis done by David Davis is proving to be shocking.

There has to be accountability on the most important decision in a generation. So now is the time to write again to make sure your MP is committed to voting for the important amendments next week. 

– That’s what amendment 7 and NC 4 are there to provide. They give MPs a chance to look before we leap.

So please make sure your MP understands the strength of their constituents feeling on this. It really does make an impact on what they think.

If you have already written – have you had a specific answer to the question “will they vote for Amendment 7 and NC4”? If not, it is likely you have had a standard reply and your email may not have been read. Write again, or phone the office and press for an answer to the question. You could even arrange a visit to the constituency office or surgery this weekend.  

We’ve updated the letter template below to provide for recent events; but please make it your own.

Thanks again!

Richard, Charles & Sue


Suggested Subject – Urgent and important – Amendment 7 vote next week

Dear xxxx
I am a constituent of yours – my address is xxxxxxxx – and I am writing about the European Union Withdrawal Bill.

I understand that Brexit requires a Bill along these lines, but I am very concerned by the powers this gives to the Government to decide on the exit terms without a meaningful vote by Parliament. After all, one of the main reasons people voted to leave the EU was to return powers to our own Parliament.

The Government’s offer of a ‘take it or leave it’ vote on the terms is inadequate, because if the Bill approving the terms was to be defeated, we would exit without an agreement. This means that a vote against the Bill would be impossible. The amendment tabled by Dominic Grieve (Amendment 7) is needed because it ensures that this would not happen, making the parliamentary vote meaningful. Therefore, I urge you to vote for it.

However – Amendment 7 does depend on exit day not being explicitly set in this Act; and so I very much hope that you will also vote against the Government’s amendment to set the exit day.

Please also vote for the new clause tabled by Chris Leslie (NC4) which has the same effect as Dominic Grieve’s amendment, but which would still be effective if exit day was set by this Act.

Yours sincerely,


Will YOUR Conservative MP support Dominic Grieve?

We understand Conservative MPs may be ‘toeing the party line’, but we firmly believe that many are as concerned as we are about the powers the EU Withdrawal Bill gives the Government.

There are at least 140 Tory MPs who voted Remain. So far, 10 of them have signed Dominic Grieve’s amendment for Parliamentary approval of the final exit deal.

We are confident of Labour party support for this and the amendment already has an impressive 44 signatures from 5 parties. We only need another 5-10 Conservative MPs to back it and we’ve won – there would have to be an act of Parliament to approve the final deal before we can leave the EU.

This amendment truly allows us to keep our options open!

If your MP gets lots and lots of letters about this, they may be inclined to join Dominic Grieve.

So if you are in one of the constituencies below, please write to your MP today asking them if they will give their backing to Amendment 7. Follow it up for an answer and don’t accept a standard reply – ask them directly if they will sign it.

The signing deadline is next Thursday 9th Nov. If they won’t put their name to it by then, ask them will they VOTE for it if and when it is called for debate.

Even better, sign up to our campaign now so that together we can make an even bigger impact through our national lobbying network.

Let’s keep the pressure up!

Arundel and South Downs
Beverley and Holderness
Bexleyheath and Crayford
Bognor Regis and Littlehampton
Boston and Skegness
Bournemouth East
Bury St Edmunds
Calder Valley
Cannock Chase
Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire
Central Devon
Central Suffolk and North Ipswich
Chelsea and Fulham
Cities of London and Westminster
Croydon South
Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale
East Devon
East Hampshire
East Surrey
Elmet and Rothwell
Faversham and Mid Kent
Finchley and Golders Green
Folkestone and Hythe
Forest of Dean
Grantham and Stamford
Halesowen and Rowley Regis
Harrogate and Knaresborough
Hastings and Rye
Kenilworth and Southam
Maidstone and The Weald
Meon Valley
Mid Norfolk
Mid Sussex
Mid Worcestershire
Milton Keynes North
Morecambe and Lunesdale
Northampton North
North Devon
North Dorset
North East Bedfordshire
North East Hertfordshire
North Thanet
North West Cambridgeshire
Norwich North
Old Bexley and Sidcup
Penrith and The Border
Plymouth, Moor View
Preseli Pembrokeshire
Reading West
Rochester and Strood
Romsey and Southampton North
Rossendale and Darwen
Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner
Runnymede and Weybridge
Rutland and Melton
Scarborough and Whitby
Skipton and Ripon
South Holland and The Deepings
South Northamptonshire
South Ribble
South Staffordshire
South Suffolk
South West Bedfordshire
South West Hertfordshire
South West Surrey
Staffordshire Moorlands
Suffolk Coastal
Sutton Coldfield
Taunton Deane
The Wrekin
Thirsk and Malton
Thornbury and Yate
Tiverton and Honiton
Tonbridge and Malling
Truro and Falmouth
Tunbridge Wells
Vale of Glamorgan
Welwyn Hatfield
West Dorset
West Suffolk
West Worcestershire
Worthing West
Wyre and Preston North
Wyre Forest

Suggested letter – but please make it your own.


I am a constituent of yours – my address is xxxxxxxx – and I am writing about the European Union Withdrawal Bill.

I understand that Brexit requires a Bill along these lines, but I am very concerned by the powers this gives to the Government to decide on the exit terms without consulting Parliament. After all, one of the main reasons people voted to leave the EU was to return powers to Parliament.

The Prime Minister has said that the European Union should make an offer that Britain can accept. It seems to me that the amendment tabled by Dominic Grieve requiring a statute to authorise the exit agreement is precisely what is needed to make that more likely: negotiators on both sides will know that the deal has to be good enough for Parliament to accept it.

Crucially, it will also undermine those who are arguing we will be better off without a deal at all.

Please could you join your colleagues who have already signed the amendment and sign it yourself – signalling the widespread Conservative support, that I am sure exists, both for democracy and a constructive deal.

Yours sincerely,

Update on Amendments

Amazing news!
The amendment we have been campaigning for (Amendment 7) has gained support from Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, SNP and Green parties – this means there is a good chance it will be called for debate.
We still need as many MPs as possible to sign it, and build support for the other amendment we are backing (New Clause 4) to show the Government that they do not have a mandate to do as they wish.
The committee stage was supposed to have started by now but the Government has delayed the vote to give the whips time to work on those who are standing up for our Parliamentary Democracy.
So it is as important now as ever before to contact your MP and tell them you are grateful (if they have signed – see below) or that they should be supporting this if they haven’t. 
The government is worried that they are losing support on these key issues – and they should be! We need a concerted effort to show that we want our Parliament to have the final say.
With the prospects of a no-deal Hard Brexit rising by the day, it’s even more important that the Government stays accountable, and Parliament has to APPROVE any exit deal – including leaving without a deal. So please keep up the good work and together we can restore Parliamentary Democracy.
The amendments we are supporting are even making the national news!

Let’s now raise the profile higher so the government cannot ignore the issue.


(For up to date signatories, please refer to the most recent Amendment paper on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Documents page.)

Signatories at time of writing:
Amendment 7

Kinnock, Stephen (Labour) – Aberavon
Grieve, Mr Dominic (Conservative) – Beaconsfield
McCabe, Steve (Labour) – Birmingham, Selly Oak
Cadbury, Ruth (Labour) – Brentford and Isleworth
Lucas, Caroline (Green Party) – Brighton, Pavilion
McCarthy, Kerry (Labour) – Bristol East
Neill, Robert (Conservative) – Bromley and Chislehurst
Soubry, Anna (Conservative) – Broxtowe
Stone, Jamie (Liberal Democrat) – Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
Doughty, Stephen (Labour (Co-op)) – Cardiff South and Penarth
Jones, Susan Elan (Labour) – Clwyd South
Hayes, Helen (Labour) – Dulwich and West Norwood
Sandbach, Antoinette (Conservative) – Eddisbury
Murray, Ian (Labour) – Edinburgh South
Bradshaw, Mr Ben (Labour) – Exeter
Malhotra, Seema (Labour (Co-op)) – Feltham and Heston
Gapes, Mike (Labour (Co-op)) – Ilford South
Kendall, Liz (Labour) – Leicester West
Morgan, Nicky (Conservative) – Loughborough
Farrelly, Paul (Labour) – Newcastle-under-Lyme
McKinnell, Catherine (Labour) – Newcastle upon Tyne North
Gethins, Stephen (Scottish National Party) – North East Fife
Smith, Angela (Labour) – Penistone and Stocksbridge
Bryant, Chris (Labour) – Rhondda
Clarke, Mr Kenneth (Conservative) – Rushcliffe
Allen, Heidi (Conservative) – South Cambridgeshire
Lefroy, Jeremy (Conservative) – Stafford
Coffey, Ann (Labour) – Stockport
Umunna, Chuka (Labour) – Streatham
Wollaston, Dr Sarah (Conservative) – Totnes
Hammond, Stephen (Conservative) – Wimbledon
Lady Hermon (Independent) – North Down
Mary Creagh (Labour) – Wakefield
Lammy, Mr David (Labour) – Tottenham
Mr George Howarth (Labour) – Knowsley
Sir Vince Cable (Lib Dem) – Twickenham
Jo Swinson (Lib Dem) – East Dunbartonshire
Tom Brake (Lib Dem) – Carshalton and Wallington
Sir Edward Davey (Lib Dem) – Kingston and Surbiton
Layla Moran (Lib Dem) – Oxford West and Abingdon

New Clause 4

Coyle, Neil (Labour) – Bermondsey and Old Southwark
Cadbury, Ruth (Labour) – Brentford and Isleworth
Lucas, Caroline (Green Party) – Brighton, Pavilion
Doughty, Stephen (Labour (Co-op)) – Cardiff South and Penarth
Hayes, Helen (Labour) – Dulwich and West Norwood
Murray, Ian (Labour) – Edinburgh South
Bradshaw, Mr Ben (Labour) – Exeter
Kyle, Peter (Labour) – Hove
Gapes, Mike (Labour (Co-op)) – Ilford South
Kendall, Liz (Labour) – Leicester West
Farrelly, Paul (Labour) – Newcastle-under-Lyme
McKinnell, Catherine (Labour) – Newcastle upon Tyne North
Leslie, Mr Chris (Labour (Co-op)) – Nottingham East
Bryant, Chris (Labour) – Rhondda
Coffey, Ann (Labour) – Stockport
Umunna, Chuka (Labour) – Streatham
Lammy, Mr David (Labour) – Tottenham
Sir Vince Cable (Lib Dem) – Twickenham
Jo Swinson (Lib Dem) – East Dunbartonshire
Tom Brake (Lib Dem) – Carshalton and Wallington
Sir Edward Davey (Lib Dem) – Kingston and Surbiton
Layla Moran (Lib Dem) – Oxford West and Abingdon