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The EU Withdrawal Bill is a dangerous mess – but the House of Lords is on it

There are five major problems with the bill as it stands. 

The House of Lords is not known as the ‘detail chamber’ for nothing.  Line by line and clause-by-clause, the mixture of former lawyers, judges, industrialists, civil servants, trade unionists, third sector leaders, ministers and medics scrutinise legislation to see whether it will achieve the aims of those involved in the drafting.

In the case of the EU Withdrawal Bill, which begins its Lords Committee stage this week, the drafters’ efforts have been found wanting in a number of key respects.

First, given the main aim of bringing into domestic law the rules and regulations already in operation by virtue of our EU membership (and to do so with certainty and clarity), the Bill has made something of a hash of matters. It omits certain rights and principles – by disregarding the Charter of Fundamental Rights – and leaves Courts unsure of whether this new statute “trumps” existing law.

Second, the whole operation is undertaken by giving massive legislative powers to ministers rather than to Parliament, allowing them to make regulation, create new criminal offences, set up new quangos and even raise charges and fees. All without primary legislation.

Third, it allows ministers to amend – via secondary legislation –the transposed legislation, which risks undermining consumer, environmental and employment protections that we currently enjoy. These threats are not imaginary. The so-called impact analysis reports that Brexit could provide the opportunity for the UK to regulate “differently” across a range of standards – a euphemism, of course, for “lower”.

The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnsonseems to believe all EU regulations are about some great ‘super-project’ rather than about protecting consumers or assisting trade. Meanwhile, right wing groups (including one led by a Tory MEP) salivate over the idea of bringing in food, drugs and chemicals from the United States that would not meet our existing health and safety rules. Not safeguarding the status of the domestically incorporated rules would effectively allow ministers to dilute long established standards.

None of these three shortcomings are needed for the act of leaving the EU. They are not what the government promised and as will be made clear during the upcoming debates on the Bill, ministers would be wise to respond in a constructive manner.

But there are other major concerns about this legislation that are more political than technical, and require ministers – and indeed, the Prime Minister – to have a proper change of heart.

One area of concern is where competences already devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – albeit within a straightjacket of EU law and activity – are to be brought back to Westminster post-Brexit. This is in breach of the devolution settlements and needs changing before the Bill becomes an Act.

Another area of concern is the powers of government in relation to Parliament, something directly related to the way in which Brexit will take place, i.e. the Withdrawal Deal being negotiated with the EU27. This deal will cover the rights of EU citizens, the money due to Brussels for commitments already made, the terms of any transition agreement, and the framework for our future trading and other relations with the EU. Key, vital issues of importance to our economy, our citizens and society. 

As it stands, the Bill excludes MPs and peers from having the right to vote on the deal (unlike members of the European Parliament will do). Yes, the Prime Minister said there would be a vote in both Houses but this would be non-legislative and non-binding on a motion; and not the legislative consent akin to the Bill that the Supreme Court required from government to trigger Article 50. Labour has long argued that it must be for Parliament – not ministers – to consent, by law, to the deal or indeed a no-deal outcome.

The Lords Committee stage of the Bill is already seeing almost unprecedented cross-party support for changes on all the above five areas. Multiple amendments have been co-signed by Labour and Liberal Democrat frontbenchers, highly respected crossbench Peers and Conservative backbenchers: the strongest possible message in the second chamber that Ministers should think about making changes to this highly constitutional Bill.

Crunch votes – and government defeats – are currently anticipated for Report stage (after Easter) but ministers could take the heat out of matters and bring forward concessions along the way. None of our proposed changes challenge or undermine Brexit. But they would ensure that neither our system of law nor the role of Parliament is undermined in the process.

Dianne Hayter of Kentish Town is Shadow Brexit Minister in the House of Lords. She tweets @HayteratLords

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Michael Carrick is the “Geordie Pirlo” that England misunderstood

The Manchester United legend’s retirement announcement should leave Three Lions fans wondering what if?

That it came in the months leading up to a World Cup arguably added an exclamation point to the announcement of Michael Carrick’s impending retirement. The Manchester United midfielder, who is expected to take up a coaching role with the club afterwards, will hang up his boots at the end of the season. And United boss Jose Mourinho’s keenness to keep Carrick at Old Trafford in some capacity only serves to emphasise how highly he rates the 36-year-old.

But Carrick’s curtain call in May will be caveated by one striking anomaly on an otherwise imperious CV: his international career. Although at club level Carrick has excelled – winning every top tier honour a player based in England possibly can – he looks set to retire with just 34 caps for his country, and just one of those was earned at a major tournament.

This, in part, is down to the quality of competition he has faced. Indeed, much of the conversation around England’s midfield in the early to mid-noughties centred on finding a system that could accommodate both box-to-box dynamos Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

As time went on, however, focus shifted towards trequartistas, advanced playmakers and those with more mobile, harrying playing styles. And the likes of Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli were brought into the frame more frequently than Carrick, whose deep-lying capabilities were not utilised to their full potential. That nearly 65 per cent of Carrick’s England caps have come in friendlies shows how undervalued he was. 

In fairness, Carrick does not embody similar characteristics to many of his England midfield contemporaries, including a laudable lack of ego. He is not blessed with lung-busting pace, nor is he enough of a ball-winner to shield a back four solo. Yet his passing and distribution satisfy world-class criteria, with a range only matched, as far as England internationals go, by his former United team-mate Paul Scholes, who was also misused when playing for his country.

Rather, the player Carrick resembles most isn’t English at all; it’s Andrea Pirlo, minus the free-kicks. When comparisons between the mild-mannered Geordie and Italian football’s coolest customer first emerged, they were dismissed in some quarters as hyperbole. Yet watching Carrick confirm his retirement plans this week, perfectly bearded and reflecting on a trophy-laden 12-year spell at one of world football’s grandest institutions, the parallels have become harder to deny.

Michael Carrick at a press event ahead of Manchester United's Champions League game this week. Photo: Getty.

Where other players would have been shown the door much sooner, both Pirlo and Carrick’s efficient style of play – built on patience, possession and precision – gifted them twilights as impressive as many others’ peaks. That at 36, Carrick is still playing for a team in the top two of the top division in English football, rather than in lower-league or moneyed foreign obscurity, speaks volumes. At the same age, Pirlo started for Juventus in the Champions League final of 2015.

It is ill health, not a decline in ability, which is finally bringing Carrick’s career to a close. After saying he “felt strange” during the second-half of United’s 4-1 win over Burton Albion earlier this season, he had a cardiac ablation procedure to treat an irregular heart rhythm. He has since been limited to just three more appearances this term, of which United won two. 

And just how key to United’s success Carrick has been since his £18m signing from Tottenham in 2006 cannot be overstated. He was United’s sole signing that summer, yielding only modest excitement, and there were some Red Devils fans displeased with then manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to assign Carrick the number 16 jersey previously worn by departed captain Roy Keane. Less than a year later, though, United won their first league title in four years. The following season, United won the league and Champions League double, with Carrick playing 49 times across all competitions.

Failing to regularly deploy Carrick in his favoured role – one that is nominally defensive in its position at the base of midfield, but also creative in providing through-balls to the players ahead – must be considered one of the most criminal oversights of successive England managers’ tenures. Unfortunately, Carrick’s heart condition means that current boss Gareth Southgate is unlikely to be able to make amends this summer.

By pressing space, rather than players, Carrick compensates for his lack of speed by marking passing channels and intercepting. He is forever watching the game around him and his unwillingness to commit passes prematurely and lose possession is as valuable an asset as when he does spot an opening.

Ultimately, while Carrick can have few regrets about his illustrious career, England fans and management alike can have plenty. Via West Ham, Spurs and United, the Wallsend-born émigré has earned his billing as one of the most gifted midfielders of his generation, but he’d never let on.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.