The House of Commons returns this week following the summer recess and its main focus will be the government’s European Union Withdrawal Bill. In the wide ranging scope of its powers this is probably the most significant piece of legislation to be presented to parliament since we first joined the EU over forty years ago. The purpose of the Bill is to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, which took Britain into the EU, and meant that European law took precedence over laws passed in the UK parliament. It will end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK, and will also transpose the body of the laws of the EU onto the UK statute book, so that there is legal continuity from day one when we leave the EU. Thereafter these laws can be amended by parliament however it sees fit, as the House of Commons will then be responsible for passing and amending our laws, without the direction of the institutions of the European Union.
This Bill is part of the process of Britain leaving the EU, but is of course very separate from the negotiations being conducted in Brussels. The EU Withdrawal Bill helps to prepare our laws and institutions for the moment when we leave. The negotiations with the EU are about determining how we will work together as neighbours, but separate political entities after we have left.
I want to see a deal with the EU that provides us with a free trade agreement that works for the interests of businesses and consumers in the UK. I want to see trade between the UK and the EU moving freely so that we do not have customs delays in Kent, blocking the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel, as well as our roads. The result of the referendum made clear that the British people believe that our parliament should have the power to set the rules determining who can come and live and work in this country. This means that our future relationship with the EU requires that the UK will be outside of the Single Market, as its rules demand that all member states allow free movement of people to live and work in any country. Of course if the EU was prepared to allow an exemption for the UK on free movement, that would make negotiating our future trading relationship much easier, but they won’t. So much of the delay in the negotiations is the result of the hard and inflexible attitude being taken by the European Union’s institutions. In this way they provide a continuous reminder to the British people of the frustrations we have felt as a member of the EU.
However, there are many ways in which we can continue to work with Europe where we have common interests, through schemes that have been created to support co-operation but do not require countries to be members of the EU to participate. These could include, for example, the Erasmus scheme which facilitates students studying in different countries.