Sunday 4 September 2016

Brexit questions - this week in Parliament

Updated 7th September:

Parliamentary business resumes on 5th September and a Westminster Hall debate is scheduled on an electronic petition (or e-petition) calling on HM government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based on a turnout of less than 75% there should be another referendum - E petition

This Research Briefing - prepared for the Westminster Hall debate - is interesting  and contains links to additional material on referendums.

It is most unlikely that the debate will result in a second referendum but the debate may enable MPs to record their views on some important matters such as whether Parliament ought to have a role in triggering Article 50 and the role that Parliament ought to play once Article 50 negotiations commence.

See also UK Constitutional Law blog, Kenneth Campbell QC - Constitutional discourse Post-referendum: Where are we, and where are we going next?

Whilst the debate is about a second referendum (unlikely to happen), Campbell notes that - " ... this will be the first substantive opportunity for Parliament to address developments over the summer, it is reasonable to anticipate the debate may range rather more widely. Whatever, the outcome of consideration of the petition, perhaps a more fruitful outcome might be forthcoming in the form of a clear expression of parliamentary will for some degree of supervision or at least engagement with the negotiation process. Given that one normative argument advanced by the Leave campaign was a reassertion of the role of Parliament, such an expression of parliamentary will would be difficult to dismiss. It is not implausible to anticipate calls for further, more substantive, debate on Art 50."

This form of debate is therefore useful but usually has limited influence - see Petitions Committee - EU Referendum Rules - where it is noted that:

"A debate in Westminster Hall does not have the power to change the law, and won’t end with the House of Commons deciding whether or not to have a second referendum.  Moreover, the petition – which was opened on 25 May, well before the referendum – calls for the referendum rules to be changed. It is now too late for the rules to be changed retrospectively. It will be up to the Government to decide whether it wants to start the process of agreeing a new law for a second referendum.

Debates on petitions in Westminster Hall are general debates about the issues raised by the petition. MPs can discuss the petition and, if they wish, ask questions about the Government’s position on the issue or press the Government to take action. A Government Minister takes part in the debate and answers the points raised. These debates help to raise the profile of a campaign and could influence decision-making in Government and Parliament."

Lords - European Union Select Committee:

House of Lords - Scrutinising Brexit - The role of Parliament

The European Union Committee has launched a short inquiry on Brexit: parliamentary scrutiny. This inquiry follows on from the Committee’s short report on Scrutinising Brexit: the role of Parliament, published on 22 July 2016.

Following the vote to leave the European Union, the Committee will examine the means by which Parliament can effectively scrutinise the forthcoming negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from, and new relationship with, the European Union. This is one of a series of short inquiries on aspects of Brexit which are being undertaken by the EU Committee and its Sub-Committees.

The inquiry will begin with a public meeting on 6 September 2016, at which three expert witnesses, Ms Jill Barrett, The Lord Kerr of Kinlochard GCMG and Professor Derrick Wyatt QC will give evidence. Further evidence will be sought from the Government in due course.


The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee will consider Scotland's place in Europe - 7th September 2016 at 2.15 pm.

Evidence to Parliament on Trade:
On 8th September, the EU External Affairs and EU Internal Market Sub-Committees will hold a joint double evidence session launching their new inquiry “Brexit: future trade between the UK and the EU”.

Parliament published Brexit - Impact across policy areas on 26th August 2016.


Hansard - House of Commons debate on Exiting the EU 5th September 2016

Hansard - The Westminster Hall debate on the EU Referendum

House of Lords - European Union Select Committee - evidence taken on parliamentary scrutiny of the forthcoming Brexit negotiations and the impact of Brexit on UK-Irish relations.

House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee - Scotland's place in Europe - The session may be viewed here.

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