One of the major pieces of legislation on Brexit begins its passage through the House of Commons today, Thursday.
It can seem to be about technical and abstract questions. But it will begin a debate about what sort of country will emerge after Britain leaves the European Union (EU).
It’s also important to argue against measures that prevent nationalisation or make combating austerity harder.
The European Union (withdrawal) bill was originally known as the Great Repeal Bill. Its central aim is to bring all the present EU laws that affect Britain into domestic law.
The House of Commons can then decide to retain or abolish them.
One of the most controversial aspects is that government ministers will gain significant extra powers to make changes without parliamentary scrutiny, using so-called delegated powers.
These are known as “Henry VIII powers” after the Statute of Proclamations 1539 which gave him the power to legislate by proclamation.
Although the government denies it, this undemocratic move will enable ministers to make significant changes without any accountability.
We need to unite against austerity, defend and extend freedom of movement and fight for socialist internationalism
This is why Labour says it will oppose the Bill. A Labour Party spokesperson said this week, “Labour fully respects the democratic decision to leave the European Union and voted to trigger Article 50.
“But as democrats we cannot vote for a bill that unamended would let government ministers grab powers from parliament to slash people’s rights at work and reduce protection for consumers and the environment.”
“Nobody voted in last year’s referendum to give this Conservative government sweeping powers to change laws by the back door.”
Labour is right to oppose these powers. But during all the debates it shouldn’t repeat the sort of retreat we saw earlier this month.
Labour embraced support for staying in the neoliberal single market for several years—or perhaps indefinitely.
There will be a month of speculation about whether the government will lose key votes on the bill in the Commons. Labour leaders think there are several areas where the government is vulnerable to potential amendments, most of which revolve around the issue of accountability.
Yesterday some Tories said they were against the "Henry VIII powers", raising doubts about whether they can be forced through in their present form.
The Scottish National Party is also putting forward amendments. One says the bill does not provide sufficient guarantees that EU citizens will be able to stay in Britain after Brexit.
We need to unite against austerity, defend and extend freedom of movement and fight for socialist internationalism.
And we should push for aBrexit that is in the interests of the working class.
Fight for a Brexit for the working class
Our vision for Brexit should include demands such as:
Defend and extend the rights of migrants and refugees. Full and indefinite rights guaranteed now for all EU nationals.
Let in all refugees, yes to freedom of movement for workers, stop scapegoating.
Guaranteed rights and funding
No reductions in workplace, social or equality rights. Guarantee continued funding for all social projects funded by EU money.
End zero hours contracts. Scrap all anti-union laws. £10 an hour minimum wage without age restrictions now.
No trade deals that stop nationalisation
No to the single market with its restrictions on nationalisation and no to any return of the TTIP deal or any other that favours the multinationals.
Housing and health for all
Fully fund the NHS and stop all privatisation, cuts and closures. Build 1 million new council homes and upgrade existing stock. Control rents. Take back privatised industries.
Tough action on climate change
Effective action on climate change, a ban on fracking and an agriculture policy focused on access to good-quality affordable food and environmental protection.
Internationalism and global solidarity
For internationalism and solidarity with workers across the world. Full support for all struggles against austerity and racism.