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EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill passes as Tories reject Lords EU citizens rights and child refugee amendments

January 23, 2020 3:00 PM

Lib Dems child refugee lobbying campaign fails as Tories push through the EU Withdrawal Bill Brexit graphic

The Brexit divorce agreement renegotiated by Johnson's government with Brussels, and approved by EU national leaders, finally passed its 3rd Reading in the Commons and now needs Royal assent and ratification by the European Parliament before it becomes law and a EU Treaty. MEPs are due to debate and vote on the deal next week (January 29) and are expected to pass it.

Wednesday saw the House of Commons overturn all the changes the Lords made earlier to the Brexit bill. Peers had altered government plans in a move to boost citizens' rights - those of EU nationals living in the UK and Britons on the continent - protect the power of UK courts relative to EU law, and ensure a say for Scotland and Wales in post-Brexit legislation. MPs also removed an amendment made by the Lords to force the British government to let unaccompanied migrant children in EU countries join relatives living in the UK.

The Liberal Democrats had launched a national lobbying campaign urging Conservative MP's to "restore public faith in politics" and back amendments in the House of Commons to protect the rights of EU citizens and child refugees in the UK. The campaign was launched after Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords handed Boris Johnson his first parliamentary defeat since the election by passing three amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, including on the rights of EU citizens and child refugees in the UK. The Lord Alf Dubs amendment, which seeks to restore the right of unaccompanied child refugees in the EU to be reunited with their families in the UK after Brexit. Lord Dubs fled the Nazis as a child on the Kindertransport, and has urged ministers not to use the children as "bargaining chips".

MPs voted, by a margin of 342 to 254, to reject the Dubs amendment, something the peer himself said was "bitterly disappointing".

Other amendments included one that would have forced the government to provide physical copies of documents ensuring EU citizens the right to remain in the UK post Brexit, not just electronic versions. Another would have allowed for the use of precedent of case law from Europe in the British courts and tribunals service, while a third would have required lower courts refer to UK Supreme Court before breaking with EU convention. The fifth and final amendment would have sought to make sure that while UK's parliamentary sovereignty was guaranteed, it would not have interfered with devolved matters.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine MP penned an open letter to Conservative MPs urging them to "vote in line with commitments made in your own manifesto" and back the amendments.
Christine Jardine said: "EU citizens living in the UK are our friends and our families, our carers and our colleagues. But they have been living under a cloud of uncertainty ever since the referendum.

"All Liberal Democrats are asking from Conservative MPs is to vote in line with commitments made in their own manifesto and protect the rights of millions of people who contribute so much to our society, our economy and our communities.

"It is heart-breaking, frankly, that Conservative MPs are also expected to vote against offering sanctuary to child refugees. These are children who have been forced to flee their homes and separated from their families.

"Boris Johnson talk's about bringing the country together, but his approach seems designed to divide it even further. I am hoping there at least some Conservative MPs left who will search their conscience and back these amendments.

Sources:

euronews 'Brexit finish line' crossed as British parliament passes EU Withdrawal bill By Alasdair Sandford with AP

Hansard

Evening Standard: MPs reject all five amendments to the Brexit bill passed down by the Lords JACOB JARVIS TIM BAKER

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EU Lib Dem signpost to future