Open Britain Background Briefing: The proposed Brexit amendments to the Queen’s Speech

The House of Commons debate on the Brexit aspects of the Government’s Queen’s speech takes place on Monday 26 June, including on amendments which have been proposed.

Open Britain’s briefing on the Queen’s Speech can be found here. We believe that the Government are acting as if the General Election had not happened, when the result demonstrated a clear rejection by the British people of Theresa May’s plan for a hard, destructive Brexit.

The ultimate test of the Queen’s Speech and any amendments to it is to whether it will help deliver a Brexit that protects jobs and living standards; delivers the ‘exact same benefits’ as Single Market and Customs Union membership; stands up for the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU; maintains or enhances co-operation on security; and protects EU laws that defend workers, consumers, and our environment.

In total, five amendments to the Brexit and Foreign Affairs aspects of the Queen’s Speech have been tabled and are scheduled for debate today [Monday]. This background briefing sets out Open Britain’s analysis of the amendments related to Brexit.   

All information on the proposed amendments is taken from here:

https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmagenda/ob170626.htm

Open Britain’s View on the Amendments

Amendment (a): EU Nationals

This amendment has been moved by nine MPs from the Labour Party, the Green Party, the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

At end add 'but respectfully regret that the Gracious Speech does not include vital protections for EU nationals living in the UK now and after withdrawal from the EU; and believe that the Gracious Speech should unilaterally confirm that EU nationals living in the UK can retain their right to remain.'.

  • Open Britain fully endorses this amendment, as we have been calling for the UK Government to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.  
  • Despite the Prime Minister’s “generous offer” on EU citizens, Open Britain believes that the Government should be doing more than it has so far proposed. See our recent press releases on this here and here for further information. 

Amendment (b): Environmental Protections

This amendment has been moved by six MPs from the Labour Party, the Green Party, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, and Plaid Cymru.

At end add 'but respectfully regret that the Gracious Speech fails to put in place effective measures to protect the environment ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU; believe that, in negotiating our future relationship with the EU, the Government should opt for the most environmentally effective way forward and not insist on pursuing freedom from all forms of EU authority; call on the Government to introduce a new Environmental Protection Bill to transfer all relevant EU law into domestic law by way of primary legislation; call for that legislation to include the meaningful transfer of existing targets and to set new and ambitious targets, establish formal mechanisms for alignment with EU standards, and establish and fund an independent framework for guaranteeing implementation and compliance, including transparent and accountable reporting structures and access for citizens to environmental justice; believe that the precautionary and the polluter pays principles, as well as the principle of integrating environmental goals into other policies, should be incorporated into domestic frameworks; call for additional measures designed to restore the UK countryside and provide new sustainable settlements for agriculture and fisheries; and note that the Environment Agency and Natural England will require additional funding to monitor compliance, and that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will require extra strategic capacity to manage the transfer of powers.'. 

  • Open Britain supports this amendment. Open Britain has long been calling for the preservation of existing standards as part of the Brexit process and that Brexit should in no way lead to a watering down of legislation. For more information on this, please see point five of our document "The Government's contract with the British people".
  • It is crucial that the Repeal Bill fully transfers the entire body of EU environmental legislation into British law, does not water down these protections in any way, and does not allow ‘Henry VIII’ clauses to be used to do so.
  • Open Britain believes that the Government should be doing more to provide guarantees that existing staffing and funding capacity across Government agencies are sufficient to deal with the transfer of powers from the EU to UK, including those dealing with the protection of our natural environment.

Amendment (c): Nations and Regions and Single Market Membership

This amendment has been moved by 39 MPs from the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

At end add 'but regret that the measures set out fail to meet the challenges facing the majority of people living in the nations and regions of the UK; call in particular for the Government to abandon its plans to pursue a hard Brexit and instead agree a new position with all parties and all devolved governments that seeks to secure continued membership of the Single Market; further call on the Government to halt further austerity spending cuts, which are damaging the UK’s economic growth and punishing the incomes of hard-working people, and to invest in public services to stimulate economic growth; and call on the Government in particular to reverse the two-child policy and remove the rape clause and lift the benefit freeze, to deliver intergenerational fairness by implementing a transition for the WASPI women and a real Living Wage for all adults above the age of 18, and to acknowledge its responsibility as a member of the international community to contribute to the resolution of the refugee crisis in Europe.'

  • Open Britain believes that the Government should involve the devolved administrations fully in the Brexit process, and fully respect their views. 
  • Open Britain wholeheartedly supports continued UK membership of the EU Single Market.

Amendment (d): Abortion in Northern Ireland

This amendment has been moved by 25 MPs from the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Green Party and the SNP.

At end add ‘but respectfully regret that measures to address the inequality in treatment of women from Northern Ireland with regard to healthcare provision were not included in the Gracious Speech; recognise that the UK currently provides funding for access to healthcare services including abortion to residents of other nations as part of its international development work; note that women from Northern Ireland have no choice but to travel to England for abortion services and face serious difficulties in doing so, and as such the current position risks the continuation of an unwanted pregnancy which may cause distress or illness to the patient concerned purely on the basis of her place of residence within the UK rather than any medical requirements; therefore call on the Government to clarify, if necessary by legislating, that under section 1(1)(a) of the National Health Service Act 2006 it is a requirement on the Secretary of State for Health to prevent illness among those who wish to end an unwanted pregnancy, who are UK taxpayers, by providing such services; and call on the Government to ensure the provision of adequate funding and guidance so that all UK citizens including those from Northern Ireland may access medical services including abortion procedures in England if they so wish without charge, and that such provision does not interfere with decisions made by the Northern Ireland Assembly with regard to the provision of such services in Northern Ireland.’. 

  • Open Britain campaigns for a continued close relationship between the UK and Europe and against a hard Brexit, so we do not provide briefing and analysis on domestic policy issues which do not directly relate to Brexit.

Amendment (e): Membership of the Single Market and Customs Union

This amendment has been moved by 12 MPs from the Liberal Democrats.

At end add ‘but respectfully regret that the Gracious Speech contained no proposals to keep Britain in the Single Market and the Customs Union.’

  • Open Britain fully and unequivocally supports this amendment. We have repeatedly called for the UK to remain in both the Single Market and the Customs Union. Membership of both is vital for our companies to be able to trade seamlessly with our largest trading partner. For more information, please see the “Single Market” and “Customs Union” sections of our Stronger with Europe pamphlet.
  • This amendment is timely, coming in the wake of a General Election result which has further confirmed that there is no appetite among the British people for a hard Brexit that puts jobs and our economy at risk by giving up Single Market and Customs Union membership at the start of the negotiations.  

Further information and Next Steps:

The votes on the Queen’s Speech, including on these amendments, are expected on Wednesday and Thursday this week, although this information has so far not been confirmed on the Parliament’s website.  

For further information on Open Britain’s position on the Queen’s Speech, please see here:  http://www.open-britain.co.uk/open_britain_background_briefing_on_the_queen_s_speech