A series of slim-majority victories enabled the Government to quell a rebellion that had been threatening to upset Theresa May’s Brexit plans.
Labour’s bid to change the Bill to make it harder for ministers after Brexit to alter EU-based employment, equality, and health and safety rights, and consumer and environmental standards, was defeated by 299 votes to 311, Government majority 12.
A bid by MPs to make ministers spell out technical provisions of existing EU law that could be changed by processes which undergo less scrutiny than full Parliamentary Bills was defeated by 311 votes to 295, majority 16.
The Government later defeated, by 313 vote to 295, majority 18, a Green Party-led call to transfer an EU protocol into UK law so animals would continue to be recognised as conscious beings in the UK after Brexit.
However, former attorney general Dominic Grieve warned laws protecting such key rights will be brought to the “lowest possible status” in Parliament after Brexit.
He said the EU Withdrawal Bill would dilute legislation regarded as being of “considerable importance”.
Despite Solicitor General Robert Buckland promising that Britain’s EU exit would not be used water down employment rules as he hit out at the “unnecessary” amendments, Shadow Brexit minister Matthew Pennycook warned secondary legislation could be used to “chip away at rights, entitlements, protections and standards that the public enjoy and wish to retain”.
Labour wanted to ensure primary legislation, requiring full debates in the Commons chamber, is needed to amend retained EU law.
Mr Grieve said: “He’s right about that – that is the curiosity of this legislation, that taking laws which we would regard for the most part in this country of being of very considerable importance if you were to speak to them, to raise the issues with the public, are being brought to the lowest possible status on their return here and without there really being an opportunity for obvious reasons for us to revisit this issue domestically in a way which might lead us to enacting fresh legislation.”
Mr Grieve later called for an assurance from the Government that the matter was being looked at, also describing Labour’s proposed change as having “problems of its own”.
He went on: “I put the Government on notice that we are going to have to draw together the issues that we’re debating today, and indeed I’m convinced it will be similar issues next week, all of which derive from the same problem, as to the way the Government has approached this and drafted this legislation at the moment, and it must be remedied.”
During Prime Minister’s Questions earlier on Wednesday, Theresa May said the Government was listening to the contributions being made in the debate and “listening carefully to those who wish to improve the Bill”.
She added: “I hope that we can all come together to deliver on the decision that the country took that we should leave the European Union.”
Debates started at 2pm and although ministers have survived defeat in the opening two days in the Commons, there are still six full days of parliament battles to go before Christmas.
Meanwhile, senior MEP David Campbell Bannerman has hit out at the Tory MPs rebelling against the Government has said they should be thrown out of the party for blocking the PM’s Brexit timetable.
He rounded on Conservative colleagues threatening to block the Government’s attempt to enshrine the exit date into law.
They should lose the party whip in the Commons and face deselection as Conservative election candidates if they side with Labour in a forthcoming Commons vote confirming March 29 2019 as the Brexit date.
Mr Campbell Bannerman, a Tory MEP for the East of England, said: “All Conservative candidates stood on a manifesto only a few months ago to honour the people’s decision to leave the EU.
“A vote against this commitment would be a huge breach of trust, show contempt for democracy and should lead to their loss of the whip and deselection by the party.
“Whilst the Government is open and listening to reasonable amendments to the Bill, any such vote against the Brexit date itself would be well beyond the pale.”