Voting on Brexit. Parliament’s consideration of the withdrawal deal and future framework

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Publication Date 16/04/2018
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By the end of 2018, the UK Government hoped to have negotiated an agreement on the UK’s withdrawal from, and future relationship with, the European Union. Ministers had promised Parliament a vote on that deal. This paper set out what the Government would have to do in Parliament, starting with that vote, in order to approve and give effect to its deal. The paper explained the decisions Parliament would have to make, setting out the timetable for this process and identifying risks for that timetable.

The report set out the parliamentary obstacle course the Government must navigate, and identified 12 possible risks to the Government's timetable in Parliament.

Further information

The UK Parliament’s ‘meaningful vote’ on the Brexit deal would be more than a yes-or-no choice.

If government ministers came back from Brussels with a draft deal on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and an agreement on the future UK-EU relationship, MPs would vote on a motion to approve both. The Government had told MPs they faced a choice between accepting those deals in their entirety or crashing out of the EU without a deal.

The report argued that the choice isn’t as stark. Instead, MPs would be able to table amendments at the time of the ‘meaningful vote’, for example, asking the Government to request a longer or shorter transition period or revisit its approach to future UK-EU trade. This could force the Government back to the negotiating table in Brussels, if the EU27 were prepared to reopen negotiations.

It cautions, however, that failure to find a single way forward in UK Parliament would result in huge legal uncertainty for citizens and businesses, as it would not be clear what rules apply after the Article 50 period expires (March 29 2019).

Separately, it should be noted that on the 18 April 2018 Constitution Committee of the House of Lords heard evidence from Department for Exiting the European Union Ministers Steve Baker MP and Suella Braverman MP. The session covered the Government’s commitment to a 'meaningful vote' on the EU Withdrawal Bill, and the expected Withdrawal and Implementation Bill that will follow.

The questions asked included:

Possible questions

+ Is the 'meaningful vote' a choice between accepting the Withdrawal Agreement in full or leaving the European Union without a deal?
+ How does the Government envisage Parliament's scrutiny of the Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration on the framework of the future relationship?
+ How long do you expect parliamentarians and committees will have to examine the Agreement and the political declaration before the 'meaningful vote' is held?
+ Will the Government publish a full analysis of the impact of the Withdrawal Agreement as part of the explanatory materials accompanying the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill?
+ Will the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill need legislative consent from the devolved legislatures?

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Related Links
UCL: The Constitution Unit: Blog, 08.02.18: Brexit and the sovereignty of parliament: a backbencher’s view
Institute for Government: Explainers: What has changed on Parliament’s 'meaningful vote'? [21.06.18, and periodically updated]
ESO: In Focus: Brexit - The United Kingdom and the European Union
Institute for Government: Explainers, 2018: Parliament and the Brexit deal
Politico, 18.04.18: UK parliament’s Brexit roller-coaster reopens for business
UCL: The Constitution Unit: Blog, 01.05.18: Voting for Brexit: the practical and constitutional barriers to getting consent for the withdrawal agreement before exit day
UK: Parliament: House of Lords: Committees: News, 17.04.18: Government Ministers questioned on Parliament’s role in relation to Brexit
UCL: The Constitution Unit: Blog, 21.03.17: Brexit presents parliament with daunting challenges but steps are being taken to help it meet them
UK: Parliament: Parliamentary Business: Research: Research publications: Brexit: research and analysis: Leaving the European Union
UK: Parliament: House of Commons: Library: Insight, 09.02.18: Parliament and the withdrawal agreement: the 'meaningful vote'
UK: Parliament: House of Lords: Committees: EU Select Committee: News, 24.10.18: Brexit secretary refuses to give evidence to Parliament

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