Thursday, 18 October 2018

Meaningful vote on a withdrawal agreement?

It is not too often that the House of Commons Procedure Committee gets a great deal of notice.   The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU wrote a letter (dated 10 October) to the committee which seems to have ruffled some feathers.  The letter came in response to a request from the committee for the government to contribute its views to the committee's inquiry into the procedure to be applied to the vote provided for in section 13(1) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.



Letter from the Secretary of State, DEXEU, to the Chairman on section 13(1) of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (pdf PDF 85.79 KB)Opens in a new window

Section 13 is headed Parliamentary approval of the outcome of negotiations with the EU and section 13 (1) states:

There has to be a withdrawal agreement for s13(1) to bite at all because it is concerned with the conditions by which such an agreement may be ratified.

13(1)(a) requires the Minister to provide Parliament with the necessary material.  13(1)(b) requires the Minister to "move a motion" for approval by the House of Commons of the withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship.  13(1)(c) requires that the House of Lords takes note of the withdrawal agreement but approval by the Lords is not required.  13(1)(d) is a requirement that, before ratification, Parliament has passed an Act containing provision for implementation of the withdrawal agreement.

The Secretary of State's letter comments -

The government has set out its stance in a 6 page memorandum - HERE (pdf).   I recommend a full reading of the memo and particular note should be paid to the role which the Speaker may be called upon to exercise in the event that amendments to the motion are put forward.  Essentially, the memo argues against the House of Commons amending the government's motion since a clear decision is required in order for the government to be able to ratify the agreement -


The approval process in section 13(1) is an additional involvement of Parliament in the ratification process since section 13(14) states - This section does not affect the operation of Part 2 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (ratification of treaties) in relation to the withdrawal agreement.  

In the event that the House of Commons does not approve the resolution then the following will apply - section 13(3) to 13(6):


Let's wait and see what happens here.  First of all, a withdrawal agreement is required !


Further reading:

J. Simson Caird, ‘Parliament and the Withdrawal Agreement: The “Meaningful Vote”’, U.K. Const. L. Blog (9th Feb. 2018) (available at https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/))

Prospect Magazine 21 October 

UK Constitutional Law Blog - R. Craig and G. Phillipson, ‘Could the ‘Meaningful Vote’ End up in Court?’, U.K. Const. L. Blog (24th Oct. 2018)

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