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A meaningful vote is being debated in terms of the UK Parliament's input on the final exit deal negotiated with the European Union (EU) as described in Clause 9 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.[1][not in citation given]

The wording of the clause was strongly contested by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords with the Lords proposing an amendment to the bill giving further powers to parliament. When the bill returned to the Commons the Lords proposed amendment was defeated but the Conservative government offered concessions.[2]

Background[edit]

Following the UK's decision to leave the European Union, the result of a referendum, 23 June 2016, the UK government invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union. The UK is thus due to leave the EU at 11 pm on 29 March 2019 UTC.[3]

British businesswoman, Gina Miller, took the government to court to challenge its authority to implement to invoke Article 50 without reference to Parliament. On 3 November 2016, the High Court of Justice ruled in favour of Miller in the case R (Miller and Dos Santos) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.[4][5]

In January 2017 the Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May announced, "I can confirm today that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force."[6][7] As a result, on 13 July 2017, David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, introduced the bill in the Commons, including the following clause 9 statement:

9  Implementing the withdrawal agreement
(1)  A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement if the Minister considers that such provision should be in force on or before exit day.[8]

As a government bill, this first reading was pro forma, with the first debate taking place on the second reading.[9]

On 18 April 2017 the May announced a snap a general election 8 June 2017,[10] with the aim of strengthening her hand in Brexit negotiations.[11] This resulted in a hung parliament, in which the number of Conservative seats fell from 330 to 317, despite the party winning their highest vote share since 1983, prompting her to broker a confidence and supply deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to support a minority government.

Alteration of Clause 9[edit]

In December 2017 Conservative MP Dominic Grieve tabled an amendment to the bill (Amendment 7) requiring any Brexit deal to be enacted by statute, rather than implemented by government order; the amendment was passed, representing a defeat for the government.[12][13] In a written statement to the Commons, Davis announced that the government would introduce an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill allowing Parliament a final say on the deal negotiated with the EU, he said: "In the UK, the Government has committed to hold a vote on the final deal in Parliament as soon as possible after the negotiations have concluded. This vote will take the form of a resolution in both Houses of Parliament and will cover both the Withdrawal Agreement and the terms for our future relationship."[14]

Clause 9 was then introduced to the house as (additions in italics):

9  Implementing the withdrawal agreement
(1)  A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement if the Minister considers that such provision should be in force on or before exit day, subject to the prior enactment of a statute by Parliament approving the final terms of withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
(2)  Regulations under this section may make any provision that could be made by an Act of Parliament (including modifying this Act).
(3)  But regulations under this section may not—
(a)  impose or increase taxation,
(b)  make retrospective provision,
(c)  create a relevant criminal offence, or
(d)  amend, repeal or revoke the Human Rights Act 1998 or any subordinate legislation made under it.
(4)  No regulations may be made under this section after exit day.[15]

Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, David Jones told the Commons he expects the parliamentary vote on Brexit to happen "before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement." Asked to clarify what happens if MPs and members of the House of Lords decide they don’t like the deal, Jones said "the vote will be either to accept the deal. Or there will be no deal."[16]

House of Lords Report Stage[edit]

At the House of Lords Report Stage in April 2018, Viscount Hailsham[1] introduced a new clause as follows:

Before Clause 9, insert the following new Clause—
n  Parliamentary approval of the outcome of negotiations with the European Union
(1)  Without prejudice to any other statutory provision relating to the withdrawal agreement, Her Majesty’s Government may conclude such an agreement only if a draft has been—
(a)  approved by a resolution of the House of Commons, and
(b)  subject to the consideration of a motion in the House of Lords.
(2)  So far as practicable, a Minister of the Crown must make arrangements for the resolution provided for in subsection (1)(a) to be debated and voted on before the European Parliament has debated and voted on the draft withdrawal agreement.
(3)  Her Majesty’s Government may implement a withdrawal agreement only if Parliament has approved the withdrawal agreement and any transitional measures agreed within or alongside it by an Act of Parliament.
(4)  Subsection (5) applies in each case that any of the conditions in subsections (6) to (8) is met.
(5)  Her Majesty’s Government must follow any direction in relation to the negotiations under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which has been—
(a)  approved by a resolution of the House of Commons, and
(b)  subject to the consideration of a motion in the House of Lords.
(6)  The condition in this subsection is that the House of Commons has not approved the resolution required under subsection (1)(a) by 30 November 2018.
(7)  The condition in this subsection is that the Act of Parliament required under subsection (3) has not received Royal Assent by 31 January 2019.
(8)  The condition in this subsection is that no withdrawal agreement has been reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union by 28 February 2019.
(9)  In this section, “withdrawal agreement” means an agreement (whether or not ratified) between the United Kingdom and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which sets out the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU and the framework for the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the European Union."[17]

The amendment with the new clause was passed by Lords by 335 to 244 – a majority of 91, which represented a further defeat for the government.[18][19] The new wording would have given MPs the power to stop the UK from leaving the EU without a deal, or to make Theresa May return to negotiations.[20]

Commons consideration of the Lords amendment[edit]

The government rejected the proposal by the Lords that would give the Commons the power to decide the next steps for the government if the EU deal is rejected by parliament.[21]

Labour MP Keir Starmer urged Conservative MPs who want Britain to remain in the EU to vote with Labour in favour of the Lords amendment when the bill returned to the Commons,[22][23] and former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown suggested that May could be replaced by a new Tory Prime Minister if she lost the vote.[24] However prominent Tory remainer Amber Rudd urged her party’s MPs to back the government in the vote.[22]

Alternative amendment by Dominic Grieve[edit]

The night before bill was due back before the Commons, 11 June 2018, Dominic Grieve tabled a last minute alternative amendment. The Lords amendment would prevent a 'no deal' with the EU scenario, MPs and Lords could tell May to go back to negotiating table and get something better, for example. Grieve's amendment also tackles the 'no deal' scenario but it sets dates for May to come back to parliament and set out the government's intentions in the event of a no deal and gain parliamentary approval for those plans.[25]

Grieve's amendment:

(5A)  Within seven days of a statement under subsection (4) being laid, a Minister of the Crown must move a motion in the House of Commons to seek approval of the Government’s approach.
(5B)  In the event of no political agreement having been reached on a withdrawal agreement by the end of 30 November 2018, a Minister of the Crown must move a motion in the House of Commons setting out how the Government intends to proceed and seeking the approval of the House for that course of action.
(5C)  If no political agreement has been reached on a withdrawal agreement by the end of 15 February 2019, the Government must bring the matter before both Houses of Parliament within five days and must follow any direction in relation to the negotiations under Article 50(2) of the Treaty of European Union which has been—
(a)  approved by a resolution of the House of Commons, and
(b)  the subject of a motion which has either been debated in the House of Lords, or upon which the House of Lords has not concluded a debate on the motion before the end of the period of five sitting days beginning with the first sitting day after the day on which the House of Commons passes the resolution mentioned in paragraph (a).[26]

The Commons Vote[edit]

On the morning of the vote, 12 June 2018, the government rejected the alternative amendment by Grieve. This set the scene for disagreement during the Commons debate about whether or not parliament should have a say in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.[25][27] The morning also saw Phillip Lee's surprise resignation as a junior Tory minister saying, "If, in the future, I am to look my children in the eye and honestly say that I did my best for them I cannot, in all good conscience, support how our country’s current exit from the EU looks set to be delivered."[28]

As the debate went on the government gave assurances to potential Tory rebels that they would address their concerns in a new amendment for the Lords to consider. The concession offered by ministers is believed to include offering a new parliamentary motion if the Brexit deal is voted down by MPs and peers,[2] this would open the door to MPs taking control of the negotiations if ministers fail to strike a deal in Brussels.[29] The concession by the government meant that the government won 324 votes to 298 - a majority of 26.[2]

Aftermath of the Commons Vote[edit]

On BBC's Newsnight Grieve said that May must honour "assurances" she's given that Parliament will get a bigger say on any final Brexit deal.[30][31] However there is disagreement among Tories over what had been agreed with Anna Soubry MP saying that, "the PM said yesterday that clause c of Dominic Grieves amendment would be discussed as part of the new amendment to be tabled in the Lords",[32] and Stephen Hammond MP writing, "Parliament must be able to have its say in a "no deal" situation and we made this point very strongly today to the Government. The Government has conceded this point and I expect to see a new amendment to cover this situation soon."[33]

A spokesperson for Downing Street claimed that the prime minister had agreed only to ongoing discussions and Davis’s Brexit department issued a statement which read: "We have not, and will not, agree to the House of Commons binding the Government’s hands in the negotiations."[32] Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said that "Tory Remainers supportive of Grieve's amendment to the Brexit bill of deliberatively attempting to stop the UK leaving the EU completely."[34]

Speaking the day after the vote in the Commons at Prime Minister's Questions, May said, "We have seen concerns raised about the role of Parliament in relation to the Brexit process. What I agreed yesterday is that, as the Bill goes back to the Lords, we will have further discussions with colleagues over those concerns. This morning, I have agreed with the Brexit Secretary that we will bring forward an amendment in the Lords, and there are a number of things that will guide our approach in doing so... As my right hon. Friend the Brexit Secretary made clear in the House yesterday, the Government’s hand in the negotiations cannot be tied by Parliament, but the Government must be accountable to Parliament. Government determines policy, and we then need parliamentary support to be able to implement that policy.[35] Commenting the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg said that, "The risk is that appears as double dealing."[36]

Goverment's proposed amendment[edit]

On the evening of 14 June 2018 the government published its compromise amendment:

(5A)  A Minister of the Crown must make arrangements for -
(a)  a motion in neutral terms, to the effect that the House of Commons has considered the matter of the statement mentioned in subsection (4), to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of 7 Commons sitting days beginning with the day on which the statement is made, and
(b)  a motion for the House of Lords to take note of the statement to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of 7 Lords sitting days beginning with the day on which the statement is made.
(5B)  Subsection (5C) applies if the Prime Minister makes a statement before the end of 21 January 2019 that no agreement can be reached in negotiations under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union on the substance of -
(a)  the arrangements for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU, and
(b)  the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom after withdrawal.
(5C)  A Minister of the Crown must, within a period of 14 days beginning with the day on which the statement mentioned in subsection (5B) is made -
(a)  make a statement setting out how Her Majesty's Government proposes to proceed, and
(b)  make arrangements for -
(i)  a motion in neutral terms, to the effect that the House of Commons has considered the statement mentioned in paragraph (a), to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within a period of 7 Commons sitting days beginning with the day on which the statement mentioned in paragraph (a) is made, and
(ii)  a motion for the House of Lords to take note of the statement mentioned in paragraph (a) to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of 7 Lords sitting days beginning with the day on which the statement mentioned in paragraph (a) is made.[37]

As of 15 June 2018 rebel Tory MPs were reportedly still unhappy with the amendment as it only allows the Commons "a motion in neutral terms" (5C)(b)(i). Grieve had originally wanted the amendment to say that the government must seek the approval of Parliament for its course of action - and that ministers must be directed by MPs and peers.[38][39]

Re-tabling of Grieve’s amendment[edit]

On the evening of 14 June 2018 Viscount Hailsham, who proposed the original amendment on the meaningful vote, re-tabled Grieve’s amendment in the Lords in full.[1][40]

The process of parliamentary ping-pong is currently taking place with the next hearing in the Lords due 18 June 2018.[41][42]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Walker, Peter (15 June 2018). "EU withdrawal bill: the key battles and what to expect next". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 June 2018. As Grieve headed to Question Time, where he promised to resume talks with the government, over in the Lords, Viscount Hailsham – who had proposed the original amendment on the meaningful vote – tabled Grieve’s own amendment in full. 
  2. ^ a b c Staff writer (12 June 2018). "Ministers win key Brexit bill vote after concession". BBC News. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  3. ^ "Brexit preparedness". European Commission. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  4. ^ "High court says parliament must vote on triggering article 50 – as it happened". The Guardian. 3 November 2016. Archived from the original on 4 November 2016. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  5. ^ Faulconbridge, Guy; Holden, Michael (30 November 2016). "A woman suing the British government over Brexit is receiving a flood of sexist and racist threats". Business Insider UK. Archived from the original on 4 February 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  6. ^ PA (17 January 2017). "Theresa May's Brexit speech in full: Prime Minister outlines her 12 objectives for negotiations". The Independent. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  7. ^ Video and full transcript of speech: May, Theresa (17 January 2017). "The government's negotiating objectives for exiting the EU: PM speech | Certainty and clarity: 1. Certainty". Gov.uk. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  8. ^ "European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (HC Bill 5)". UK Parliament. 2017. Archived from the original on 13 June 2018. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  9. ^ "European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19". Bills before Parliament 2017-19 > Public Bills. UK Parliament. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  10. ^ Boyle, Danny; Maidment, Jack (18 April 2017). "Theresa May announces snap general election on June 8 to 'make a success of Brexit'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  11. ^ Staff writer (9 June 2017). "General election 2017: Why did Theresa May call an election?". BBC News. Archived from the original on 5 September 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  12. ^ Sharman, Jon (14 December 2017). "Amendment 7: What is it and how does it change Brexit?". The Independent. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  13. ^ "Theresa May: We're on course to deliver Brexit despite vote". BBC News. 14 December 2017. Retrieved 19 June 2018. 
  14. ^ "Procedures for the Approval and Implementation of EU Exit Agreements: Written statement - HCWS342". UK Parliament. 13 December 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  15. ^ "European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (HC Bill 5)". UK Parliament. 2017. Archived from the original on 13 June 2018. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  16. ^ Cooper, Charlie; Kroet, Cynthia (2 July 2017). "British parliament will get vote on final Brexit deal". Politico EU. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  17. ^ "European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: text of amendment 49". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. 30 April 2018. 
  18. ^ Perkins, Anne (8 May 2018). "EU withdrawal bill: 14 defeats in the Lords for the government". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  19. ^ "European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: Division on Amendment 49". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. 30 April 2018. 
  20. ^ Forsyth, Alex (30 April 2018). "Brexit: Government defeat in Lords over terms of meaningful vote". BBC News. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  21. ^ Staff writer (8 June 2018). "Ministers water down changes to 'meaningful' Brexit vote". BBC News. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  22. ^ a b Syal, Rajeev (10 June 2018). "Keir Starmer urges Tory remainers to vote with Labour on Brexit". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  23. ^ Marr, Andrew (host); Starmer, Keir (guest) (10 June 2018). "Keir Starmer interviewed by Andrew Marr" (PDF). The Andrew Marr Show. BBC One. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  24. ^ Gordon, Tom (11 June 2018). "Gordon Brown says Brexit vote this week could topple Theresa May". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  25. ^ a b Payne, Adam (12 June 2018). "Everything you need to know about Theresa May's Brexit bill showdown". Business Insider UK. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  26. ^ "Consideration of Lords Amendment: European Union (Withdrawal) Bill". UK Parliament. 12 June 2017. Archived from the original on 13 June 2018. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  27. ^ Elgot, Jessica (12 June 2018). "Brexit: No 10 rules out backing compromise amendment to EU withdrawal bill". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  28. ^ Watts, Joe (12 June 2018). "Tory minister Phillip Lee resigns over Brexit on day of crucial EU withdrawal votes". The Independent. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  29. ^ Kentish, Benjamin; Cowburn, Ashley; Buchan, Lizzy (12 June 2018). "Brexit vote - as it happened: Theresa May caves in to Tory rebels in major negotiations climbdown". The Independent. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  30. ^ Staff writer (13 June 2018). "Brexit: MPs say PM must honour 'assurances' over Parliament's role". BBC News. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  31. ^ Watt, Nicholas (host); Grieve, Dominic (guest) (12 June 2018). "Keir Starmer interviewed by Nicholas Watt" (PDF). Newsnight. BBC Two. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  32. ^ a b Crerar, Pippa; Elgot, Jessica; Walker, Peter (12 June 2018). "May escapes Brexit bill defeat as Tory rebels accept concessions". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  33. ^ Hammond, Stephen (12 June 2018). "Update on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – Day 1". stephenhammond.net. Stephen Hammond. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  34. ^ Scotto di Santolo, Alessandra (13 June 2018). "'Hugely IRRESPONSIBLE' Tory Brexiteer TRASHES Rebels' attempt to 'betray British people'". Daily Express. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  35. ^ "Prime Minister's Questions". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 13 June 2018. 
  36. ^ Kuenssberg, Laura (13 June 2018). "Could Brexit concession intensify Tory warfare?". BBC News. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  37. ^ Greenfield, Patrick; Stewart, Heather (14 June 2018). "Brexit: No 10 rules out backing compromise amendment to EU withdrawal bill". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 June 2018. 
  38. ^ Staff writer (14 June 2018). "Leading Tory rebel Dominic Grieve rejects May's Brexit compromise". BBC News. Retrieved 15 June 2018. 
  39. ^ Staff writer (14 June 2018). "Theresa May set for Brexit clash as rebels brand compromise 'unacceptable'". ITV News. Retrieved 15 June 2018. 
  40. ^ Staff writer (14 June 2018). "Theresa May hit with another Brexit headache as Conservative rebels brand PM's compromise as 'disappointing'". ITV News. Retrieved 15 June 2018. 
  41. ^ "Bill stages — European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19". services.parliament.uk. UK Parliament. Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  42. ^ "EU (Withdrawal) Bill returns to Lords". parliament.uk. UK Parliament. Retrieved 15 June 2018. 

External links[edit]

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