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Brexit test not over after May wins key vote

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Issue 2571
Theresa May returning to work last week
Theresa May returning to work last week (Pic: Flickr/Number10)

The Tories won a key parliamentary vote on Brexit in the early hours of Tuesday with a comfortable majority of 36.

But they face a grinding series of future votes, and the divisions over Brexit haven’t disappeared.

EU migrants slam the racist right wing Tories’ new plan to divide us
EU migrants slam the racist right wing Tories’ new plan to divide us
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This week’s vote was to take the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on to the next stage of parliamentary scrutiny.

Its central purpose is to bring all the European Union (EU) laws that affect Britain into domestic law. The House of Commons can then decide to retain or abolish them.

But one of the most controversial aspects is that the government will gain significant extra powers to make changes without parliamentary approval, using so-called delegated powers.

These are known as “Henry VIII powers” after the Statute of Proclamations 1539 giving the monarch power to legislate by decree.

Although the government denies it, this will shift much of the legislative power of the House of Commons to ministers. It will also undermine the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations.

Nearly all Labour MPs voted against the Bill on Tuesday because of this undemocratic aspect.

As soon as the vote was finished MPs, including several Tories, queued to submit amendments. The government may have to compromise or face defeat.


Brexit is also raising crucial issues for Labour and the unions.

One is whether to stay in the EU neoliberal single market, at least for a “transitional period”. This week Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has both seemed to lean strongly towards doing so—and then to lean in the opposite direction.

The single market promotes bosses’ interests at workers’ expense. Its rules have been used to force member states to open up their public services to private competition. They have made it harder to nationalise industries and have blocked strikes.

And they would be used against a Corbyn-led Labour government.

Delegates at the Trade Union Congress (TUC) conference came up with a confused position on Brexit. They passed the TUC leadership’s position, which both supports the EU single market and opens the door to attacks on migrants.

“The approach taken in the UK has allowed bad employers to profit whilst letting public services decline,” it said.

“The UK should look at other countries’ models of free movement and should use all the domestic powers at its disposal to manage the impact of migration.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that such alternative models included public sector jobs being “reserved for locals”. Though she added, “We’re not necessarily advocating them.”

Yet delegates also overwhelmingly passed a motion defending freedom of movement.

Sally Hunt, UCU lecturers’ union general secretary, said, “We will never stop arguing for free movement of labour.

“It can in many ways border on racist to blame those from other countries for lowering wages. It is employers who depress wages, not immigrants.”

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