The government must bring forward legislation to ratify its deal—but the prospect of another parliamentary defeat looms largeby Joe Owen / May 17, 2019 / Leave a comment
After taking Brexit off the boil since Easter, the government has decided to bring its deal with the EU back to parliament. MPs will get yet another opportunity to vote on the prime minister’s Withdrawal Agreement in early June, but this time it will be on legislation—the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (or WAB as it is known in government)—rather than the previous, symbolic “meaningful votes.” Those votes left the government red-faced after historic defeats. Here is what you need to know this time around.
Why do we need the Withdrawal Agreement Bill?
To ensure smooth departure, the UK needs to implement the Withdrawal Agreement in domestic law. The UK’s constitution means that when it signs up to a legally binding international treaty, it isn’t automatically reflected on the statute book—parliament has to legislate for it. The EU Withdrawal Act specifies that needs an Act of Parliament—so the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is essential if the government is to ratify its deal. John Bercow, the Speaker, refused to allow another “meaningful vote,” but the government must nonetheless press on with the legislation itself.
What will it contain and what are the flashpoints?
There’s a reason this Bill has been kept under wraps—it’s likely to be prove deeply unpopular with some MPs. It needs to:
– Give ministers powers to pay the negotiated financial settlement – Restore parts of the European Communities Act (the UK law implementing EU membership) for the duration of the transition period—preserving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. – Give the Withdrawal Agreement—and any EU law within it—a form of continued “supremacy” over UK law – Put the citizens’ rights provisions into UK law and create an “independent monitoring authority” to ensure the UK complies – Provide for a process for implementing the backstop if needed
If the Bill survives second reading—a simple yes or no vote on the principle of the Bill—MPs will be able to table amendments. At that point, it’s possible a whole host of changes will be suggested by parliamentarians.
A leaked “war-gaming” exercise, run by the government to understand possible amendments, suggests there are a number of possible flashpoints. One example is the financial settlement, where MPs could request that payments to the EU are dependent on negotiating a future trade deal. Parliament’s role in the future relationship negotiations is also likely to feature, with the government already claiming to be open to…