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“We can’t let the Tories turn back the clock… The Great Repeal Bill is not about Brexit, it is about power”

by Bradford West MP Naz Shah

The bill before parliament today is not solely about Brexit. The Labour Party respects the result of the referendum and that our relationship with Europe will fundamentally change. The vote tonight is not about whether we ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ but whether Members of Parliament or a tiny Tory elite have the final say. The Great Repeal Bill is nothing more than a cynical power grab by a Tory Government without an overall majority.

This will give unchecked and almost unlimited power to a tiny group of Tory ministers. A concentration of power the likes of which this country has not seen since Henry the 8th.

With the general election result and the Tory’s diminishing power in parliament, these new powers enable them to change laws without appropriate oversight, scrutiny or transparency from parliament – this is an attack on our democracy – an attack that puts us all at risk.

We heard the outrage from Tory ministers last month when told that the bells of Big Ben would stop ringing temporarily. That this was an attack on the symbol of our democracy! Tonight’s vote on the Great Repeal Bill is not just about stopping the clock. It’s about turning it back to the 1500’s and making decisions that affect all of our lives simply by proclamation.

Last Friday at my fortnightly surgery I was lucky enough to have an appointment with a French EU citizen who has lived continuously in the UK for the last seventeen years and Bradford for the last twelve. She has two children, both born in the City, one at primary and one at secondary school and has always been employed and committed many hours volunteering in her local community. Currently she works in an elderly people’s care home as a Carer working long hours and unsocial shift patterns. She loves Bradford and she loves the UK but no longer feels so welcome here.

We spent half an hour discussing the impact that the Brexit vote has already had upon her and her family. Listening to her personal testimony made vivid the uncertainty and accompanying anxiety that the three million EU residents for whom the UK has become home are now experiencing, and how the government’s clumsy and ill-considered proposals are making things so much worse.

The government plans to replace the acquired rights of EU citizenship with a new and much weaker ‘settled status’ which EU citizens would be required to apply for. EU citizens in the UK would no longer benefit from the same family reunification rights, the right to leave the UK and return after two years, or the overarching principle of equal treatment. And the entitlement to ‘settled status’ itself would be dependent on possession of Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CIS) which many do not possess, enjoying as they have previously, access to the NHS. It is a labyrinth of unfairness.

Tonight the government will attempt to extend this attack on democratic rights even further to include every one of us. Tonight’s vote is not about whether you are a ‘Brexiteer’ or a ‘Remainer’ it is whether you believe in the sovereignty of Parliament and the right of Members of Parliament to discuss, debate and scrutinise the work of Government. This is a power grab by a Tory Government that was rejected by large parts of the UK public in Junes General Election and rejected completely by the people of Bradford West.

This is why I will be voting for the Labour’s motion led by Jeremy Corbyn, but not the bill itself. To do anything else would be failing the people of Bradford West and the people of Britain.

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