The Cabinet is to meet on Wednesday 14 November to consider the agreement. Cabinet Ministers have received individual briefings about the agreement but they can hardly have fully read it and analysed its contents. If the Cabinet accept the agreement then it will go forward for approval by the House of Commons. The Opposition wishes to be able to move amendments to any motion for approval of the agreement.
It is not clear what steps will be taken,
if any, to consult the devolved administrations in the UK - e.g. Scottish Parliament / Government. Under devolution arrangements, relations with the EU are handled by the UK government - e.g. see Scotland Act 1998 Schedule 5, Government of Wales Act 2006 Schedule 7A.
Politically, there are bound to be difficulties with Scotland over the withdrawal agreement and, in the first place, Scotland voted against Brexit. It will be recalled that the Scottish Parliament refused to give legislative consent to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
The draft withdrawal agreement should also be accompanied by a framework for the future relationship. At least that is the expectation and the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 section 13 requires the House of Commons to vote on both the withdrawal agreement and the framework.
On the EU side of this, steps will be taken toward securing the agreement of the EU Council. The Council must act by qualified majority and the consent of the European Parliament is required before Council may conclude the agreement - Article 50 TEU. The EU continues to be cautious and recognises that a "no deal scenario" could arise and the EU Commission has intensified preparedness work for that eventuality.
Humble Address - Legal Advice
On 13 November, the House of Commons debated another Humble Address motion concerning legal advice given to the government about the proposed withdrawal agreement. The Humble Address procedure was used in 2017 to obtain the sectoral analyses relating to withdrawal from the EU - previous post (3 November 2017).
The debate on legal advice may be read at Hansard Online. An attempt to amend the motion was rejected by the Speaker. The motion was moved by Sir Keir Starmer QC MP (Labour) and, in the event, it was not opposed by the government.
The Humble Address reads:
"That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that she will be graciously pleased to give directions that the following papers be laid before Parliament: any legal advice in full, including that provided by the Attorney General, on the proposed withdrawal agreement on the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union including the Northern Ireland backstop and framework for a future relationship between the UK and the European Union."
At the end of the debate Sir Keir Starmer QC MP commented that the Humble Address required the "final and full advice of the Attorney-Genereal to Cabinet regarding th terms of the withdrawal agreement.
Robert Neill MP asked whether the Law Officers could still consider the public interest when coming to any decision on the appropriate form of any disclosure that is made. The Speaker responded that he did not think any violence to the position of the Law Officers had been done.