Cooper Bill Becomes Law

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A backbencher bill proposed by Labour’s Yvette Cooper which squeaked through the commons by just a single vote has completed its passage through the House of Lords, returned to the Commons for amendments to be considered and has gained royal assent, passing it into law. This is remarkable since normally, only the government proposes significant legislation and in view of the rapidity with which the law has been passed.

In essence, the Cooper bill was designed to preclude the UK from leaving the EU without a deal in place. As a consequence of the legislation, the government must go to parliament with their proposal for a requested extension of the A50 process which they intend to ask the EU for. The date suggested by government is then subjected to amendment, should MPs so wish. The government has set aside 90 minutes for the debate to be held today, ahead of the EU’s emergency summit meeting tomorrow.

As things stand currently, the government is requesting an extension to 30/06/19 which would mean that the UK must hold European parliament elections (unless a deal is struck in the British parliament in the next few days), a situation that a significant number of Conservative MPs are very unhappy with. The EU has signalled that this extension is unlikely to be acceptable since it is too short. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, is known to favour a “flextension” of up to a year which could be terminated prematurely should a deal be reached in Westminster. Whilst it seems unlikely that any of the EU states will veto an extension, the French are insisting that a clear plan is needed before any extension can be agreed. Should one or more member state refuse to endorse the extension, the UK would be faced with a choice of an immediate revocation of A50 notice or crashing out of the EU with no deal or transitional period this Friday.

Parliament in the UK has been clearly opposed to a “no deal” exit, so the debate today which will fix the extension that Mrs May must ask for (by law) will be a critical decision.

In comments following the passage of the Cooper bill (co-sponsored by Sir Oliver Letwin, a Conservative), Yvette Cooper said that her bill would:

“… prevent a chaotic no deal in four days’ time, hitting jobs, manufacturing, medicine supplies, policing and security.”

“[Parliament had] responded to the gravity and urgency of the situation by passing the legislation in time. That is why colleagues from all sides have worked so quickly together, including with government ministers to ensure a workable, common-sense safeguard could be put in place. We are in this difficult situation because the prime minister left things until so late in the day and we should be honest that none of this is ideal. The bill helps avoid the worst outcome on Friday, but the prime minister still needs to build consensus around a workable way forward.”

Dr. Mike Campbell is a British scientist and freelance writer. Mike got his doctorate in Ghent, Belgium and has worked in Belgium, France, Monaco and Austria since leaving the UK. As a writer, he specialises in business, science, medicine and environmental subjects.