Expats worry over repeal bill
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