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Article 50 negotiations - Labour Lords motions

Briefing on motions tabled by Baroness Dianne Hayter & Baroness Angela Smith in response to Ministers' statements on the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK & the meaninful parliamentary vote

Following the passage of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill and the government’s rejection of two Labour-led amendments, the Labour Lords team has today tabled two motions relating to the Article 50 negotiations. These motions focus on the issues covered by our previous amendments and will require Ministers to provide clarity on unresolved issues.

Report on the rights of European Economic Area (EEA) nationals:

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town to move to resolve that a Minister of the Crown do report to this House by the end of this Session on the progress made towards ensuring that qualifying non-UK EEA nationals and their family members are able to retain their fundamental EU-derived rights after the UK has left the EU.

Establishment of a Joint Committee on a meaningful vote at the end of the negotiations:

Baroness of Smith of Basildon to move that it is expedient that a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider and report on the terms and options for any votes in Parliament on the outcome of the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, including how any such vote be taken before any agreement is considered by the European Parliament; and that the committee do report by 31 October 2017.

The motions appear on today’s House of Lords order paper and are scheduled for debate on Wednesday 29th March: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201617/minutes/170316/ldordpap.htm

What were Labour’s amendments to the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill?

  • Labour successfully led two House Lords amendments to the Bill after securing cross-party support. These attracted majorities of 102 and 98.
  • The first amendment would have required the government to bring forward proposals within three months of triggering Article 50 to guarantee the rights of EEA nationals already resident in the UK.
  • The second amendment would have put into law the commitments the government has already made – under pressure from Labour at both ends of Parliament – about the final vote on the Article 50 deal: that the UK Parliament will have a vote on ‘not only the withdrawal arrangements but also the future relationship with the European Union’; that the vote Parliament has on the draft withdrawal agreement will take place ‘before it is concluded’; and that both Houses of Parliament will debate and vote on the draft withdrawal deal before the European Parliament.
  • The second amendment would also have ensured that if the Prime Minister fails to agree a deal with the EU, only Parliament could decide to end negotiations and exit with no deal.

Ping-pong and Labour’s position in the Lords

  • It is the Prime Minister and Conservative MPs that killed off the amendments to the Article 50 Bill, not the House of Lords.
  • Labour had hoped the amendments would be carried in the Commons and that Ministers had listened to the points we made on both issues over many months.
  • MPs however, rejected the amendments in the Commons with increased majorities of 48 and 45. It was made clear during the debate that no amendment to the Bill would be accepted by the government.
  • In these circumstances, Labour Lords took the constitutionally responsible decision not to send further amendments back for consideration. In taking this position, it was made clear by our Shadow Brexit Minister, Bns Dianne Hayter that we would use other methods to hold Ministers to account.

 What happens now? 

  • The Bill has now completed its passage through Parliament and ready for Royal Assent. This means the Prime Minister now has the authority to invoke Article 50, although this is not expected to happen until the final week of March.
  • By tabling these motions, Labour Lords are applying pressure on the government on these two fundamental issues. Both motions will debated on the floor of the Lords and it is possible that there will be votes.
  • If passed, the second motion – on establishing a Joint Committee of both Houses to discuss arrangements for a meaningful vote at the end of the Article 50 negotiations – would be passed to the Commons for further consideration.
  • We are confident of cross-party support for these motions and will continue working with colleagues from across the House to advance these two important causes. 

- Ends -

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