CHAOS gripped the Commons today when new Brexit Secretary Dominc Raab’s introduction of the white paper on leaving the EU had to be suspended for five minutes because copies hadn’t been given to MPs.
Speaker John Bercow suggested three times that he give them permission to leave the chamber to obtain them.
He said: “Were he not to do so, I think that the consequence in terms of Chamber unhappiness would become that much more stark.”
Mr Raab stated that the document was available online before finally conceding that MPs could walk to the Vote Office to get hard copies.
MPs rushed back into the chamber with cardboard boxes of the white paper and had five minutes to read it before asking questions.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer asked why journalists were given a copy of the white paper at 9am and given 15 minutes to read it before questions while MPs only got it three hours later.
He said Mr Raab’s statement was only handed to him when the previous session of business questions was finished.
“That is in breach of the ministerial code,” he seethed. “It is deeply discourteous, and it is unacceptable.
“I did not miss much, but the serious point is this: the point of these statements is to allow questions to be asked of the Secretary of State, and by proceeding in this way, with this utter shambles, we are denied proper scrutiny of this white paper.”
The 98-page document sets out a free trade area in goods, new arrangements for services with autonomy for financial services, an end to free movement, with new “mobility” rules allowing visa-free travel for tourism and temporary work, and continued security co-operation, participation in Europol and a range of EU agencies.
It also includes a guarantee that Britain “is committed to membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
Lamiat Sabin is Morning Star Parliamentary Reporter
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