MEP Life 18- Strasbourg and the Commons vote on Withdrawal Act Bill (WAB)

Hello and welcome to MEP Life 18! After the joy of the People’s Vote march, I was off to Strasbourg on Monday for the monthly plenary session, where all MEPs come together to determine Parliament’s position on political issues and vote on the legislative work done in committees.

The debates and votes can be found here, but the only certainty with the current uncertain situation is, of course, further uncertainty- and this week was more of the same.

Brexit had been on the agenda for the October session in Strasbourg for weeks, but with Johnson trying to force his Withdrawal Act Bill (WAB) through the UK parliament and no agreement in Westminster, there was nothing for the European Parliament to vote on.

Instead, on Monday evening I joined a meeting of the European Parliament Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) for an update from Michel Barnier on the Brexit state of play. As the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator, Barnier was well placed to address all MEPs about how Europe is being careful, and respectful of the British government’s decision-making process. Despite the UK stalemate Barnier was clear that is was still for the UK to decide what direction it should take. The EU was not going to force an extension on us while none was required.

Our incredible MEP colleagues who support our remain cause, have been interested in hearing that the mood in the UK is changing and why this makes it critical to go back to the electorate for the People’s Vote. They are particularly sympathetic to the young people who have passed voting age since 2016, who most would agree deserve a vote on their own future.

On Tuesday evening, while Westminster was voting on Johnson’s deal and proposed timetable for putting the Bill through the House of Commons, we waited anxiously in a Renew Europe meeting.

In the first vote, Parliament passed the second reading of the WAB. This made me nervous, I will admit, but is does not mean that Westminster approves a Bill, Simply that MPs agree to send it the ‘Committee Phase’ which is where scrutiny of the document takes place.

When Parliament voted against the ludicrously short timetable for scrutiny, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. Johnson can say what he wants, but his proposal that the WAB and associated legislation-should be pushed through three readings and the Committee phase in 3 days, was nothing but the Government trying to steamroll it through without proper scrutiny and with no economic impact assessment report. The British public deserves so much better than to be treated with such contempt.

Interestingly at this point- with an opportunity for adequate examination agreed- Johnson ‘paused’ the WAB and returned to his pitch for a General Election. Could you believe it? One cannot help wonder what it is about scrutiny of the bill that scares him so much?

We are now heading for an election on December 12th. The Liberal Democrat proposal of December 9th was tied to a requirement that the EU needed to have agreed a 3 month extension before this could happen, to forestall an accidental no deal Brexit. We were also attempting to ensure that students are included in this election. Many students are registered to vote at their University digs, rather than their home address – funnily enough this doesn’t worry the Conservatives at all!

So, where are we now? Europe has formally granted the 3 month extension and we have an election on December 12th 2019.

If you care about staying in Europe please seek out your local Liberal Democrat Team- or any Remain candidate from any party- and offer to lend a hand. In any election campaign there are a multitude of tasks to be done from hammering post for signs, to delivering leaflets, to making phonecalls and fundraising. Help with all of these is always welcome!

If you want to get involved then the best advice is find the WEBSITE of your nearest Liberal Democrat office and give them a call!

Finally – ARE YOU REGISTERED TO VOTE?

In my first election as candidate, in 2015, on polling day I spoke with the manager and chief assistant in my local Carphone Warehouse. They were both intelligent and capable, but neither knew that to vote you MUST be registered before Election Day.

Is everyone that you know registered to Vote? the cut off date is; NOVEMBER 26th!

It takes 5 mins. You need your national insurance number.

This election is about their future, it is about YOUR future, please share the information and these links to everyone you think might need them.

Help us make sure that those who care about Europe are Registered to Vote!