The former attorney general on the problems with the EU Withdrawal Bill—and the foreign secretary's Brexit approachby Alex Dean / October 4, 2017 / Leave a comment
Ever since Britain triggered Article 50 in March, suspicion has grown that senior government ministers simply do not understand Brexit. They rail furiously against Brussels bureaucrats, they make the emotional case for reclaiming British sovereignty, but the technical know-how—so vital to securing a favourable Brexit deal for the UK—still seems beyond them.
The same cannot be said for Dominic Grieve QC. The MP for Beaconsfield and former Attorney General is one of parliament’s finest legal minds, and relishes a chance to get stuck into the nitty gritty of policy. I met him at Manchester’s Midland Hotel during Conservative Party conference—his 21st conference in a row. Over the next three quarters of an hour, the former “Remainer” tore into the government’s Brexit Bill. Boris Johnson, who delivered his speech on that day, received much the same treatment.
On the subject of Johnson’s recent Brexit interventions, Grieve said: “The principle of cabinet responsibility is that you debate and discuss within government how you are going forward: you agree a line, and having agreed a line, you stick to it. What you can’t do is to agree a line in cabinet and then make public statements which are—or appear to be—at variance with what you’ve previously just agreed with your colleagues. That is not a proper approach.”
With a mischievous smile flashing across his face every few sentences, Grieve then set upon the EU Withdrawal Bill. Currently heading for its committee stage, the Bill will transpose all EU law into UK law. In an intervention which is sure to provoke anguish in No 10, Grieve suggested the government’s current approach to the Bill has left it vulnerable in the courts. As things stand, “I think there will be legal challenges,” he said.
That could precipitate a constitutional crisis, holding up our exit and infuriating hard Brexiteers.
“There’s going to have to be a piece of primary legislation that reflects the deal that has been carried out—and then gives the government the authority to implement the measures that we’re enacting.”
Granting MPs a “take it or leave it” vote on the final deal just isn’t good enough, then. “I think doing this in a proper constitutional fashion, that would be a better way forward.”
Yet getting the party…