Paul Blomfield MP

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The Government introduced the so-called ‘Great Repeal Bill’ – or the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill as it is properly known - in the House of Commons in July and it will be debated over the coming months. Its purpose is to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, which incorporates EU law into our domestic law. But Labour has serious concerns about how the Government plan to replace these 40 years’ worth of rules, and we will vote against the Bill if changes are not made to it. As currently drafted, the ‘Repeal Bill’ is not fit for purpose. 

Our six main concerns with the Repeal Bill are that:

1. It proposes sweeping delegated powers but lacks effective oversight or accountability. In particular, the Bill could allow delegated powers to be used very late in negotiations to cover significant policy changes. This is fundamentally undemocratic and unacceptable.

2. It lacks clear enforcement mechanisms. Without remedies, key rights such as workplace rights or environmental standards could become unenforceable.

3. It does not include the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. This codifies human rights in EU law and UK law in modern form and includes important protections in evolving areas such as privacy protections, discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and rights for the elderly. Failure to include the Charter will impact the way that rights are interpreted in UK courts.

4. It takes the wrong approach on devolution and does not ensure effective involvement of devolved administrations. There should be a clear presumption of devolution. Without this, the Bill is a significant power grab for Whitehall and fails to capitalise on the potential for further devolution of power to the nations and regions of the UK.

5. It does not include any provision to ensure that UK rights keep pace with EU rights after Brexit. This could lead to UK rights lagging behind the EU over time in areas such as workplace, consumer or equality protections or environmental standards.

6. There can be no qualifications, limitations or sunset clauses attached to this Bill. If there are, Labour will not support it. In addition, Labour will block the use of delegated legislation to the same effect.

We are also concerned that the Bill mirrors the Government’s wider and deeply flawed red-line that would prevent any future role for the European Court of Justice – a position that is making it far harder for the UK to get a Brexit deal in the national interest. Read my article with Shadow Secretary of State Keir Starmer about how this will impact on jobs and nuclear safety here.

Finally, Labour completely rejects the notion that no deal is better than a bad deal with our EU partners. No deal is a bad deal – it would compromise everything from the way we keep our country safe by sharing data and intelligence with our European neighbours, to plunging our businesses into chaos. So Labour is pushing for the Government to take the prospect of ‘no deal’ off the table, and to commit to a transition period so that organisations, from law enforcement agencies to businesses, can plan properly for the future.

Brexit update – the Repeal Bill

The Government introduced the so-called ‘Great Repeal Bill’ – or the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill as it is properly known - in the House of Commons in July and it will be...

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I took Citizens Advice Sheffield to meet Department for Work and Pensions Minister Penny Mordaunt to discuss the impact of changes in disability benefits and some of the problems people are now facing.

The meeting followed my question in the House of Commons earlier this year, in which I asked the Minister to meet with me and Citizens Advice to discuss their report. I’m pleased that we were able to secure this meeting and I will follow up on it to make sure that it results in action.

Citizens Advice Sheffield presented the findings from their recent report into the experiences of people who have contacted the service about the Personal Independence Payment benefit - some 2,235 enquiries between October 2015 and January 2017.

Since the beginning of 2015, disabled people claiming the old Disability Living Allowance (DLA) have been transferring to a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - a process set to continue until the end of 2017.

Although Citizens Advice welcomes how some groups of disabled people are now receiving increased levels of support, their report flags the following concerns:

-          Many people with severe walking difficulties have been hit by more restrictive rules which, for some, have resulted in the loss of their Motability car, despite their condition being no better than before. Under DLA they had been told they could have their car indefinitely.

-          A group of older disabled people have been hit particularly hard, as the rules mean they have no chance of regaining their entitlement to the Motability scheme even if their condition deteriorates at a later date.

-          Some Deaf people who communicate in British Sign Language have found that there was no interpreter available at their face-to-face assessment even though they had explicitly requested one.

-          A new early review mechanism introduced into the PIP process causes uncertainty about how long disabled people can depend on getting their benefit, something which is especially upsetting for people with mental health problems.

 

You can read their full report here

My meeting with Minister about disability benefits

I took Citizens Advice Sheffield to meet Department for Work and Pensions Minister Penny Mordaunt to discuss the impact of changes in disability benefits and some of the problems people...

Since the EU referendum result was first announced in June 2016, Labour has been pushing for EU citizens here in the UK and Brits who have made a life for themselves in another EU country, not to be caught up in the Brexit negotiations. 

We led a debate in Parliament less than two weeks after the referendum result, calling on the Government to give EU citizens already here in the UK the right to stay, thereby creating the right conditions for other EU Governments to reciprocate the offer to British citizens in their countries. The Government refused and decided to tie up the future of this group of 4 million people – those working in our NHS and teaching in our schools, Brits retired abroad not knowing if their pension rights will continue – with the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

The decision to keep these people waiting until March 2019 to find out their future prospects, and with the threat of ‘no deal’ hanging over them even then, is completely unacceptable. As one of Labour’s Shadow Brexit Ministers since October 2016, I’ve been pushing the Government to see sense on this and find a solution as soon as possible.

I’ve led calls in Parliament for the Government to change its approach, worked with groups representing the people affected - the 3 million and British in Europe - to make sure the Government is considering the issue properly, and asked dozens of questions of the Government about the offer it has finally made on this issue in the early part of the Brexit negotiations.

The Government’s offer falls short of what Labour has been calling for and the commitment we made in our manifesto to “immediately guarantee existing rights for all EU nationals living in Britain and secure reciprocal rights for UK citizens who have chosen to make their lives in EU countries.” By delaying for a year, the Government allowed the European Commission to make the first offer, and then responded with a less generous offer that would see people lose rights, have to re-apply to stay here even if they’ve been granted permanent residence before, and with no guarantee about how these rights will be secured into the future.

It isn’t just the uncertainty and worry for the people affected that is causing a problem. Our public services and the economy are suffering too. Our NHS faces an even deeper crisis, as EU staff leave to where they can plan for their futures and applications to our universities from EU students are falling, threatening thousands of jobs in cities like Sheffield.

For now at least, EU nationals in the UK have the same rights as before, which is why it’s also hugely concerning that whilst the Government fails to provide certainty about the future, companies are reportedly discriminating against EU nationals. I’ve written to the Secretary of State about this – there can be no excuse for unlawful discrimination - by companies, by employers or by public service providers.

This issue is one of the first being dealt with in the Brexit negotiations. If the Government can’t even reach agreement on this relatively simple issue, it does not bode well for the rest of the negotiations covering hugely complex issues from our future trading relationship to crime and justice cooperation. Labour will continue to fight for citizens to be put first, and for this issue to be resolved quickly.

Labour’s fight to take citizens out of the Brexit negotiations – an update

Since the EU referendum result was first announced in June 2016, Labour has been pushing for EU citizens here in the UK and Brits who have made a life for...


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