European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – Report stage amendments
- Overview of remaining stages of the Bill (p1)
- Overview of Labour Lords frontbench Report amendments (pp2-3)
- Quotes from Baroness Smith of Basildon & Baroness Dianne Hayter (p4)
Remaining stages for the ‘Article 50’ Bill in the House of Lords and beyond
- Report stage and Third Reading – both taking place on Tuesday 7th March:
Report stage will begin at 11am, with a likely break from 2pm to 3pm (in part for Lords daily oral questions). The session from 3pm is likely to conclude by 7.30pm. Following a short non-legislative debate on ‘fracking’, Third Reading is likely to begin at 8.30pm with an expectation that this will be over by 10pm.
- Commons consideration of Lords amendments – taking place on the afternoon of Monday 13th March:
Consideration of Lords amendments, and if brought forward government concessions on voted defeats or minor technical changes, with potential of course for parliamentary ping-pong. We currently expect the Bill to return to the Lords for the evening of Monday 13th March, when Peers will give further consideration to that afternoon’s Commons debates on the amendments.
Labour Lords frontbench amendments
Having successfully led the amendment on EU/EAA nationals at Lords Committee stage, the Labour Lords frontbench is seeking two further changes to the Bill at Report stage: on ‘parliamentary reporting’ and the ‘meaningful vote’.
The debate on ‘parliamentary reporting’ is expected to take place shortly after midday on Tuesday 7th March, with the debate on the ‘meaningful vote’ likely to start soon after 3pm. A vote on the latter would be likely to take place after 5pm.
With our focus continuing to be on process rather than specifying outcomes of the Brexit negotiations, below is the full text of each amendment, with a short explanatory note and related comments from government ministers:
‘Parliamentary oversight of the negotiations’:
Page 1, line 10, at end insert—
“( ) Once a notification has been given under subsection (1), Ministers of the Crown must make a quarterly statement on the negotiations to each House of Parliament, with an accompanying report to be made available to relevant parliamentary committees.”
What does the amendment do?
- This is a simpler amendment than we tabled at Committee. As before however, it requires Ministers to provide quarterly updates on the negotiations and to pass on accompanying reports to relevant committees.
- The amendment no longer includes a requirement to give access to confidential documents sent from the EU institutions to the UK Government, but Labour will hold Ministers to account with regards to their commitment to share public documents from EU institutions.
What has the government said?
Brexit Minister Lord Bridges: “… restoring parliamentary sovereignty lay at the core of what the British public were seeking to achieve when they voted to withdraw from the EU, so it is right that Parliament must and shall play a key role in scrutinising and shaping our withdrawal.” HoL Committee (day 1), 27 February 2017
‘A vote in the UK Parliament before any vote in the European Parliament’:
Insert the following new Clause—
“Parliamentary approval for the outcome of negotiations with the European Union
(1) The Prime Minister may not conclude an agreement with the European Union under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, on the terms of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, without the approval of both Houses of Parliament.
(2) Such approval shall be required before the European Parliament debates and votes on that agreement.
(3) The prior approval of both Houses of Parliament shall also be required in relation to an agreement on the future relationship of the United Kingdom with the European Union.
(4) The prior approval of both Houses of Parliament shall also be required in relation to any decision by the Prime Minister that the United Kingdom shall leave the European Union without an agreement as to the applicable terms.”
What does the amendment do?
- The amendment would add a new Clause to the Article 50 Bill, requiring the government to hold a vote in both Houses of Parliament before concluding an agreement with the EU under Article 50.
- Subsection (2) requires that votes in the UK Parliament are held before the European Parliament votes on the terms of the Article 50 agreement. This is consistent with the concession made by the Minister when the Bill was in the Commons.
- Subsection (3) requires that any separate agreement on the future UK-EU relationship is also put to a vote in both Houses. Again, this is consistent with the government’s commitment.
- Subsection (4) would provide for a parliamentary vote in the event of the government ending the Article 50 process with no deal. This would include the eventuality that the Prime Minister decides to walk away from the negotiations.
What has the government said?
Brexit Minister David Jones MP: “I can confirm that the Government will bring forward a motion on the final agreement, to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it is concluded. We expect and intend that this will happen before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement.” HoC Committee (day2), 7 February 2017
Brexit Minister Lord Bridges: “… there will be a vote in both Houses of Parliament on the final agreement before it is concluded—a vote we fully expect and intend to be before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement. As I said, this commitment goes above and beyond what is contained in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act. As I said at Second Reading, any new treaty we agree with the EU will be subject to the provisions of CRAG before ratification.” HoL Committee (day 2), 1 March 2017
Labour’s leader in the Lords, Baroness (Angela) Smith of Basildon said:
“As Labour’s Leader in Lords I have said all along that we would not block Brexit while reserving our right to challenge and scrutinise any legislation put before us. As we showed last week, we may also pass amendments on issues where we think it would be helpful for both the government and the Commons to take another look.
“While the sabre-rattling against the Lords from unnamed ‘government sources’ appears to have gone away, I was disappointed that the Leader of the Lords is now suggesting, incorrectly, that our amendments may be open to legal challenge. On the contrary, it could be the government that faces such a challenge, if – as has been said by leading legal experts* – Parliament is not properly engaged in the process.”
Labour’s Shadow Brexit Minister in the Lords, Baroness (Dianne) Hayter said:
“With the Article 50 Bill set to return to the Commons next week, the Labour Lords frontbench is seeking two further changes to the Bill, on parliamentary reporting and the final ‘meaningful’ vote.
“With the Prime Minister’s triggering of Brexit only weeks away, we need the best possible deal to lessen the social and economic aftershocks of the referendum result. Engaging Parliament throughout the process can only but help improve the Prime Minister’s negotiating hand, and a vote at the end will I am sure be conducted in the best interests of our country.”
*Notes for editors:
Cross bench peer and former Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court, Lord Hope: “The argument that the Government may face is that the same reasoning must be applied to the final stage in the process, too. Even if there is some doubt about this, legislation would provide legal certainty. It would minimise the risk of further legal challenges.” HoL Second Reading (day 1), 20 February 2017
Cross bench peer and Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court, Lord Hope: “I respectfully suggest that it is in the Government’s best interests, for their own protection, to look for a form of words that will provide them with the answer to any possible challenge that might be made along lines that would impede progress towards a final agreement. HoL Committee (day 1), 27 February 2017
Cross bench peer and former Chief Justice for England and Wales, Lord Woolf: “The present situation in this country is a matter to be dealt with by Parliament and not by the courts. I strongly urge us not to force people to seek to go to the courts, as they could in this situation in this jurisdiction. It is a matter which should be decided by both Houses of Parliament.” HoL Committee (day 2), 1 March 2017