Next week the EU Withdrawal Bill comes back to the House of Commons after completing its passage through the House of Lords. The amendments made by their Lordships have been well publicised and as I write this temporary TV studios are appearing around Parliament as the media prepares for one of the most pivotal nights in Parliament for a very long time.
For those unfamiliar with the processes of our bi-cameral Parliament, the Commons must now consider the Lords’ amendments and choose to either accept them, remove them or offer an amendment in lieu. Almost everything that the Lords have added to the Bill is contentious and so there are a series of very challenging votes in front of us. Most significantly the votes on single market access and the customs union.
If the Commons do remove or replace Lords amendments, then the Lords must then consider what we’ve done and the process continues until both Houses are agreed. I’ve defended the right of the House of Lords to scrutinise and revise the work of the Commons – talk of them being traitors are unhelpful and unfair. However, it will be a significant moment if the Lords chooses to continue to oppose the will of the directly elected chamber. If we remove their amendments, it would be wholly wrong of them to put them back again. For all sorts of reasons, not least that people are keen that we just get on with it, next Tuesday night needs to be the end of the process.
Finally, I should be clear that I have no intention of changing my votes from when we originally considered the Withdrawal Bill in the Commons. This piece of legislation is key to showing our intent and we must send the strongest possible message to the EU. Not because we want to annoy them or lose their friendship, but because to get the best deal from the negotiations, they must know that we mean it.