Parliamentary recess draws to a close, so the Government will resume its fight for Brexit on two fronts. The first remains in the negotiating chamber against Michel Barnier and his team. Downing Street seems to be ready to face them as often as necessary, declaring that the Government is “ready to intensify negotiations” with Brussels rather than having talks just one week in every four. European leaders hope to decide in October whether talks have shown enough progress to allow them to move forward onto the key question of trade, so extra negotiations are reportedly being considered as a way to get enough locked down in time. Politico claims that a senior British negotiator recently raised with an EU counterpart the possibility of engaging in “ continuous negotiations” (although sources have played down to me how imminent this could be). Clearly if such an idea gains traction, the determination among both sides to get business done quickly will be clear.
The Government has to get the relevant legislation through onto the statute books in time for Britain’s departure, with the Great Repeal Bill (or the “European Union (Withdrawal) Bill” as it is formally known) up for debate at its second reading in the Commons later this week. Conservative arch-Remainer Anna Soubry told the Today programme this morning that she did not know of any Tory “that isn’t going to vote for this Bill at second reading”, but that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be any amendments proposed that could delay proceedings at later stages (i.e. the committee stage) of its passage into law.
Tory Europhiles might hold their fire this week, but Labour has shown less restraint. Sir Keir Starmer, fresh from unveiling his party’s “softer” Brexit stance, suggested over the weekend that the party would derail the legislation unless it satisfies their concerns over the use of “Henry VIII” powers. David Davis is set to make a statement tomorrow to Parliament on how last week’s negotiations went, so will get a sense of the Parliamentary opposition then. Lord Mandelson suggested this morning that the Government can expect “ gruelling political trench warfare” over the coming months. That may not be the case just in Parliament, but in Brussels too.
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