Labour has confirmed Jeremy Corbyn will order his MPs to vote against the government’s EU withdrawal Bill when it has its second reading in the Commons.
A Labour spokesman said this afternoon that while the party “fully respects” the referendum result its MPs would be asked to oppose the legislation which unamended would “let government ministers grab powers from parliament to slash people’s rights”.
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill transposes existing EU laws into British law as part of the Brexit process.
Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, this morning said the legislation was needed to prevent “complete legal vacuum” and a “legal cliff edge” when the UK leaves the EU.
And he said Labour would be “irresponsible” to attempt to block its passage in the Commons.
Opponents of the Bill from all sides have warned that Brexit aside, the Bill gives the government excessive so-called Henry VIII powers to change laws without parliamentary scrutiny.
Lib Dem leader Vince Cable this morning told the BBC the government was “usurping a great deal of power from parliament”.
Anna Soubry, one of the most pro-Remain Tory backbenchers, said she would not vote against the Bill at second reading, but warned ministers she and others would be likely to support amendments at a later stage to protect “basic human rights”.
“There is nothing weird and there is certainly nothing treacherous about putting down amendments and then speaking to them and indeed voting on them. It’s called democracy,” she said.
A Labour Party spokesperson said today: “Labour fully respects the democratic decision to leave the European Union, voted to trigger Article 50 and backs a jobs-first Brexit with full tariff-free access to the European single market.
“But as democrats we cannot vote for a Bill that unamended would let government ministers grab powers from parliament to slash people’s rights at work and reduce protection for consumers and the environment.
“Parliament has already voted to leave the European Union. But the government’s EU Withdrawal Bill would allow Conservative ministers to set vital terms on a whim, including of Britain’s exit payment, without democratic scrutiny.
“Nobody voted in last year’s referendum to give this Conservative government sweeping powers to change laws by the back door. The slogan of the Leave campaign was about people taking back control and restoring powers to parliament.
“This power-grab Bill would do the opposite. It would allow the government to seize control from the parliament that the British people have just elected.”
Over the recess, Labour shifted its position to back remaining in the single market and customs union during a transition period after Britain’s official exit from the EU in March 2019, and will hope its stance can split the Tories in Commons votes.