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Article 50 negotiations - Labour Lords motions - UPDATED

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 tabled two motions relating to the Article 50 negotiations. These motions – for debate early evening on Tuesday 4th April – focus on the issues covered by our previous amendments and 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.

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, and with 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 that the government has already made – under pressure from Labour at both ends of Parliament – about the final vote on the Article 50 deal, to ensure a meaningful vote takes place in both Houses of Parliament on ‘not only the withdrawal arrangements but also the future relationship with the European Union’; and takes place both before the agreement is concluded, and the draft deal is put before the European Parliament.
  • The second amendment would also have ensured that if the Prime Minister fails to agree a deal, only Parliament could decide to end negotiations and exit with no deal.
  • Labour had hoped both amendments would be carried but the Prime Minister and Conservative MPs killed off both amendments.
  • 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 weeks since the Bill received Royal Assent have seen the Prime Minister invoke Article 50 against a backdrop of continued debate on the two fundamental issues on which we pressed our amendments.
  • By moving these two motions in the Lords this week, Labour Peers continue to apply pressure on the government – both in terms of the general issues and the specific commitments made in Parliament by Ministers.
  • The debate will take place early evening on Tuesday 4th April and votes are anticipated – unless the government decides to accept the motions.
  • If the first motion is passed – on the rights of EEA nationals – House of Lords conventions would expect at the very least a written ministerial statement, which would provide an additional measure against which the government would be held to account.
  • If the second motion is passed – on establishing a Joint Committee of both Houses to discuss arrangements for a meaningful vote at the end of the Article 50 negotiations – the issue would become a matter for consideration in the House of Commons. 

- Ends -

Published 3rd April 2017

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