Labour and SNP claim delay in EU withdrawal bill shows “chaos at the heart of government”

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 18 October 2017 in News

With the EU withdrawal bill facing criticism from both opposition parties and Tory backbenchers, reports suggest Theresa May will be left with no choice but to delay its introduction until mid-November

House of Commons - credit: Parliament

The SNP and Labour have seized on reports that widespread opposition will force the UK Government to delay the EU withdrawal bill’s journey through the Commons as proof of “chaos at the heart of government”.

MPs had expected to debate the bill, which will transfer EU law into UK legislation, next week. But with the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill facing criticism from both opposition parties and Tory backbenchers, reports suggest Theresa May will be left with no choice but to delay introducing it until mid-November.

A UK Government spokesperson said that a date had never been set for the bill to be debated.


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The bill passed its second reading in September, but with opposition parties tabling hundreds of amendments and the cabinet contending with backbench opposition, it is expected that May will no longer be able to proceed in order to have the legislation in place for the spring.

SNP ​Foreign Affairs and Europe spokesperson Stephen Gethins described the delay as “yet another example of the chaos at the very core of this hopelessly divided UK government”.

He said: “Rather than dithering and delaying over the bill, the Prime Minister must scrap it in its entirety, and instead consult with parties across Westminster and the devolved administrations, to ensure we do not end up in a catastrophic Brexit free fall.

''This repeated stalling and endless in-fighting is doing huge damage to Scotland and the UK.''

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said the delay raised questions over whether the Prime Minister could lead the UK to leave the EU.

He told the Guardian: “This is further proof that the government’s Brexit strategy is in paralysis. The negotiations are in deadlock and now a crucial piece of legislation is facing further delay.

“There is chaos at the heart of government. Theresa May cannot unite her cabinet or her party behind this deeply flawed bill. There are now serious questions about whether the prime minister can deliver Brexit.”

But a Government spokesperson rejected claims the bill had been delayed.

They said: “The withdrawal bill is an essential piece of legislation in the national interest. It is completely false to suggest that there has been a delay to the bill as it has yet to be scheduled to enter committee stage. The process is straightforward: the leader of the house will announce the next week’s business at business questions tomorrow.”

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