Ex­pats worry over re­peal bill

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - News Feature - Jtroughton@cb­news.es

By Jack Troughton THE CON­TRO­VER­SIAL EU With­drawal Bill sur­vived its first test in Par­lia­ment but the so-called ‘power grab’ by the gov­ern­ment did noth­ing to al­lay fears of ex­pats.

The pro­posed leg­is­la­tion – which con­verts ex­ist­ing EU law into Bri­tish law ahead of Brexit – was backed by MPs by 326 votes to 290.

The bill, first spo­ken of as the ‘Great Re­peal Bill’, would al­low the gov­ern­ment to se­lect which laws it wishes to re­tain on the statute book when the UK leaves the Euro­pean Union.

How­ever, it would give the gov­ern­ment “Henry VIII pow­ers”, us­ing Statu­tory In­stru­ments rather than Par­lia­ment it­self to make changes with­out the usual scru­tiny of the sys­tem.

Ex­pats across Europe and EU cit­i­zens liv­ing in the UK be­lieve a lack of de­bate will hit their op­por­tu­nity to lobby MPs and raise mat­ters of con­cern in time.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May wel­comed the vote, taken in the early hours of Tues­day morn­ing, say­ing it of­fered “cer­tainty and clar­ity”, but op­po­si­tion par­ties de­scribed it as an “af­front to [par­lia­men­tary democ­racy”.

And there will be fur­ther at­tempts to change the leg­is­la­tion; MPs have laid down 157 amend­ments, cov­er­ing 59 pages.

On the Costa Blanca, cam­paigner Mar­garet Hales MBE be­lieves it gives min­is­ters too free a hand and Statu­tory In­stru­ments could be used to change law – just as the Con­ser­va­tives scrapped UK pen­sion­ers in some EU coun­tries – in­clud­ing Spain and France – from re­ceiv­ing the win­ter fuel al­lowance.

Mar­garet, the Span­ish spokesman for ECREU (Ex­pat Cit­i­zens Re­sid­ing in Europe), com­mented on the vote: “Ever since a Statu­tory In­stru­ment, Henry VIII’s legacy, was qui­etly used to sneak into law the ex­clu­sion of those of us in seven ‘hot coun­tries’ from re­ceiv­ing the Win­ter Fuel Pay­ment, I have not trusted them.

DE­BATE “They ex­clude our Par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives, our Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment elected specif­i­cally to rep­re­sent us, from any de­bate about the ins and outs of the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion.”

Mar­garet said the trans­fer of EU laws into UK leg­is­la­tion un­der the EU With­drawal Bill was “in­evitable”, “if life was to con­tinue post-Brexit”.

But she said Mrs May’s gov­ern­ment “proved in­ca­pable” of weed­ing out the most im­por­tant is­sues for proper de­bate.

“De­spite time avail­able in the sum­mer, not a fin­ger was lifted to make sen­si­ble demo­cratic changes to this bill; in­clud­ing work­ers’ rights, fish­ery leg­is­la­tion, and is­sues about North­ern Ire­land. All should be de­bated in a mod­ern democ­racy,” she said.

“No won­der they call it a power grab. No won­der Span­ish tele­vi­sion’s Euro­pean news broad­cast the de­bate with some pithy com­ments.”

Mar­garet added: “Even the house of Lords con­sti­tu­tion com­mit­tee has high­lighted the sweep­ing na­ture of these del­e­gated pow­ers and said they raise ‘con­sti­tu­tional con­cerns of a fun­da­men­tal na­ture, con­cern­ing, as it does, the ap­pro­pri­ate bal­ance of power be­tween the leg­is­la­ture and the ex­ec­u­tive’.”

ECREU is part of a Bri­tish in Europe al­liance, to­gether with the 3mil­lion group – which rep­re­sents EU cit­i­zens liv­ing in the UK.

To­gether, the block has at­tacked on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the UK and EU over the fu­ture sta­tus of ex­pats, ar­gu­ing they should not be treated as bar­gain­ing chips or as “an im­mi­gra­tion mat­ter”.

Mar­garet added ex­pats were peo­ple “in­te­grated and con­tribut­ing” to host coun­tries and had been away from ‘home’ for many years; while mat­ters were com­plex, she said the lobby groups be­lieve the fu­ture was “still un­cer­tain”.

Mar­garet with hus­band Ger­ald

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