EU withdrawal bill to be delayed - are we surprised?

The EU Withdrawal Bill was set to be debated in the House of Commons this week but it now looks likely to be postponed until the UK parliament reconvenes after the autumn recess. MPs are due to spend eight days debating the bill at committee stage, which will then undergo further scrutiny in the Commons and the Lords before it is approved.

The UK Government is expecting significant opposition among Conservative MPs. approximately 300 amendments and 54 new clauses have been tabled. The bill is likely to put sever strain on the Government's fragile Commons majority.

MPs have raised concerns over the so-called "Henry VIII powers" contained within the Bill, which will allow ministers to make legislative changes without full parliamentary scrutiny.

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said "the delays to this Bill make Southern Rail look punctual. It's crystal clear there is no majority in Parliament or the country for the extreme form of Brexit this government is pursuing."

Ahead of its final stage in the second chamber, MSPs will be asked to give their consent. However, so far Nicola Sturgeon has made clear she could not recommend her MSPs to support the bill. The First Minister like her Welsh counterpart, Labour's Carwyn Jones, believes the legislation is a "power-grab" by Whitehall; a contention denied by UK Government ministers.

A Department for Exiting the European Union spokesman said: "The Withdrawal Bill is an essential piece of legislation in the national interest.

"It is completely false to suggest that there has been a delay to the bill as it has yet to be scheduled to enter committee stage.

"The process is straightforward: the Leader of the House will announce the next week's business at business questions tomorrow."

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on EU Relations, said: "I am not at all surprised at this delay on the EU Withdrawal Bill; it is a badly-drafted Bill, and badly thought through.

Dr. Ray NultyComment