Yes, they are at it again, with a negative statutory instrument that revokes a heap of regulations that allow member states to do cabotage shipping in other member states. What on earth does this mean? I hear you ask.
Cabotage is going from place to place in a foreign country, it can apply to lorries, buses, aircraft and ships. In this instance we are talking ships. The government is using the Henry VIII powers to no longer expressly guarantee the right of companies established in a member state to go from one UK port to another UK port taking goods and people. They say that there is no current intention to restrict this practice, which I guess is nice, but it is no longer guaranteed – which is rather uncertain.
Does this matter much? Do any ships go from a UK port to another UK port? what would be the point of that? Who cares? Surely that stuff could just go by road or something?
Take a look at the ferries that sail from Belfast. See the Stena Line one going to Cairnryan and that other one going to Liverpool? Those are scheduled cabotage sailings that will no longer have guaranteed rights to operate. If the EU follows it’s own laws and restricts our cabotage rights to the EU then the Northern Ireland routes by an operator established in Sweden are at risk. This is going to present a considerably more inconvenient border within the United Kingdom than any backstop could ever do.
All this is going to happen, and it will happen with no parliamentary scrutiny as it is going through on the negative procedure.
What can you do about this? Well not much really. You can write to the sifting committee and ask them to flip it to the affirmative procedure, which just means that some bored MPs will vote it through without reading or thinking about it. This is fractionally better than letting it go through without a vote, but ultimately this is just a sequence of events unfolding that could only have been stopped by voting to remain in 2016.
The Lords committee have produced their report on a batch of these instruments and it looks like my feedback got through to them! You can read the full report, the relevant extract is below.