The dodgy trick Theresa May just used so parliament doesn’t get a real say on Brexit

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Theresa May and the Conservatives have used a dodgy trick to make sure parliament does not get a real say on Brexit proceedings.

The dodgy trick

First, the Prime Minister gave MPs only a handful of days to debate the Article 50 bill.

After imposing a brief timescale for debate, the government now appears to be time wasting to ensure amendments to the Article 50 bill do not get a proper hearing. And opposition parties have tabled many amendments to the bill.

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In its present state, the Article 50 bill hands May absolute power to leave the EU. But it sets no conditions on the terms of Brexit. Furthermore, the government’s written Brexit proposal (white paper) reaffirmed that May has no post-Brexit plan. Otherwise perhaps it would have contained one.

Labour MPs accused former Conservative Chief Whip Mark Harper of filibustering during the Brexit debate on 6 February. Filibustering is when MPs give lengthy and unnecessary speeches in order to waste parliamentary time.

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On 7 February, May announced she would allow MPs to vote on the deal with the EU before it is put to European Parliament. But this faced cross-party criticism because the vote would be on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis. Caroline Lucas said it amounted to “treating parliament with contempt”.

Amendments shot down

So, after imposing a limited time frame, the Tories are filibustering. Now opposition MPs have less time to promote their amendments. And this time wasting may have contributed to the misunderstanding of an important proposal.

The government defeated a proposal that would give the Commons the same information on future Brexit negotiations as that given to the European parliament. Under the amendment, the government would have to provide the Commons with any document provided to the European parliament. It would also have to issue progress reports to the Commons every two months.

The government defeated the bill on the basis that it could not control what documents the European parliament received.

But this misrepresents the amendment. The bill only wants the government to forward parliament Brexit documents so it has equality of information with Brussels.

If Tory MPs weren’t filibustering, perhaps amendments would not be voted down on misleading premises.

The UK is approaching perhaps its most important legislative change in a generation. Yet May’s government wants to avoid as much parliamentary scrutiny as possible.

On top of this, a Tory MP has been filibustering to prevent opposition MPs being heard. Time wasting during such a crucial debate is surely a disgrace.

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