Government sparks fears of 'chaos' after rushing through emergency Brexit legislation

The front door of number 10 Downing Street in London.

The front door of number 10 Downing Street in London. - Credit: PA

Emergency stop-gap Brexit legislation is set to be rushed through the House of Lords in a day to ensure the UK is ready for its final departure from the EU at the end of the year.

The “panic stations” bill has led to accusations of “chaos” being levelled at the government.

The criticism came as peers heard of plans to push through the Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill on Thursday.

This is the last official sitting day of the upper chamber before the Christmas break, although members were warned they faced recall in the event of a last-minute deal being reached with Brussels, ahead of the ending of the transition period on December 31.

The emergency legislation contains key provisions from the Trade Bill, which is still making its way through the Lords.

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Tory Lords leader Baroness Evans of Bowes Park said it was “designed to bridge the gap” between the end of the transition period and the point at which the Trade Bill comes into force.

She told peers the interim Bill “contains important measures to support our ability to use data to secure our borders and support businesses who trade across them”.

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She added: “These powers are needed to facilitate the sharing of trade-related data from government departments and public bodies.”

Lady Evans went on: “This small Bill has been brought forward, and I accept at very short notice, in the absence of any other suitable legislative vehicle. The powers are needed regardless of the outcome with the EU.”

The Tory frontbencher confirmed “that as things stand” the Lords will rise on Thursday and return on Tuesday, January 5.

Lady Evans added: “But I need to be very clear if developments are such that we are required to meet again before January 5, then necessary arrangements will be made whatever they may be.”

Labour leader in the Lords Baroness Smith of Basildon said the temporary Bill was a “sensible precaution”, but added: “I do question why it is now… on December 16 the government suddenly decides that it has discovered that we need to have these provisions in place in the next few days. I would have thought that would have been evident prior to today.”

Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords Lord Newby said: “One just wonders what’s been happening in the Department for International Trade which meant they only realised there was a gap in the legislation a few days ago. It’s been obvious for ages we weren’t going to get through the Trade Bill proper. It’s rather worrying this ‘panic stations’ Bill has had to be introduced.”

Labour peer Lord Foulkes of Cumnock said since first coming to parliament in 1979 and the crises since then, including the Falklands and prime ministerial resignations he had “never known such chaos as we have at the moment”.

He added: “Chaos not because of the epidemic… but it’s the man-made chaos of Brexit.”

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