Brexit: Usherwood says 'no sign' of opening up British position
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Labour MPs have been accused of failing to scrutinise the impact of Brexit on the UK – with Prime Minister Liz Truss urged to step in with a “reset”. A report published by the Institute for Government today suggested the current arrangements were “lacklustre” – with many Labour Parliamentarians opting to skip meetings of the European Scrutiny Committee (ESC) which monitors the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Protocol on Northern Ireland and the UK/EU Trade & Cooperation Agreement”.
The paper warns the average attendance of Labour MPs on the committee has fallen below 50 percent in each parliamentary session between 2017–19 and 2021–22.
Excluding one regular attendee, Labour MPs have attended just 11 percent and then four percent of the sessions which they could have done.
The report also accuses Labour of being slow to replace members of the ESC appointed to shadow ministerial roles.
Meanwhile the number of Brexit-related urgent questions asked in the Commons fell from 45 in the 2017-19 session to less than 15 in the 2019-21 session.
A mere seven of 235 inquiries (or three percent) held by departmental and cross-cutting committees in the Commons (excluding the Future Relationship with the European Union (FREU) Committee) have held inquiries on post-Brexit issues in the 2019 parliament so far, the IFG report points out.
By contrast, In the 2017–19 parliamentary session, one in eight committee inquiries dealt with Brexit, and all departmental and cross-cutting committees except four holding inquiries relating to Brexit.
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In their conclusions, report authors Jill Rutter, Hannah White and Alice Lilly say: “After parliament’s bruising experiences of the post-referendum period, it is not surprising that many MPs, especially on the Labour benches, want to avoid looking back at Brexit.
“The Government’s message that Brexit is done has attraction for many in the Commons, regardless of whether they support the claim.
“But whatever the Government may hope, Brexit is not really done and certainly not going away.”
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There was “a lot of evidence that Brexit is causing real problems for business and citizens”, some a “necessary consequence” of the type of Brexit chosen, others “unforeseen”, the authors suggest.
Simultaneously, there was also “frustration among Brexit supporters” at what they saw as he Government’s failure to identify and seize the opportunities presented by quitting the bloc.
They add: “The early days of the Truss government do not suggest that it has much more appetite for scrutiny than the Johnson government.
“But its advent is an opportunity for a reset – and it should also consider what influence it might want on the longterm UK–EU relationship if it found itself in opposition after the next election.
”Either government should propose changes itself or senior parliamentarians from across the political spectrum should pressurise government into making clear that parliament has an important continuing role to play.
”Failure to do this reinforces the impression that the mantra of ‘taking back control’, which was so powerful in the referendum of 2016, was about handing power to the executive and hoarding it there, not re-empowering parliament.”
Express.co.uk has contacted the Labour Party for comment
The IfG paper recommends:
* The European Scrutiny Committee’s remit be reformed to allow proper scrutiny of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, or a new committee be formed
* The ESC chair be elected by the whole House – ending the existing arrangements which have seen Sir Bill Cash continue as an unelected chair since 2010 – so bringing the committee in line with most other Commons committees
* Northern Ireland MPs have seats on the new or reformed committee as of right
* The Government commits to give parliament the materials it needs – on activity relating to the Joint Committee on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Partnership Council – for proper scrutiny
* The Government allow early involvement of parliament in discussing negotiating trade deal objectives and for post-ratification scrutiny and ratification
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