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Exiting the EU: Publication of Legal Advice

The Government has published and made available to Parliament, the Attorney General’s legal advice to Cabinet on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland following the Motion passed on 04 December 2018 in the House of Commons.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/exiting-the-eu-publication-of-legal-advice

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/761852/05_December-_EU_Exit_Attorney_General_s_legal_advice_to_Cabinet_on_the_Withdrawal_Agreement_and_the_Protocol_on_Ireland-Northern_Ireland.pdf

This is the full, final advice that the Attorney General provided to Cabinet on 14 November on the legal effect of the Withdrawal Agreement. The release of this advice does not set a precedent for any future release of Law Officers’ advice.

An extract from the advice indicates that it could be difficult to leave the backstop arrangement:

In conclusion, the current drafting of the Protocol, including Article 19, does not provide for a mechanism that is likely to enable the UK to lawfully to exit the UK wide customs union without a subsequent agreement. This remains the case even if parties are still negotiating many years later, and even if the parties believe, that talks have clearly broken down and there is no prospect of a future relationship agreement. The resolution of such a stalemate would have to be political.

Legal Advice (copy of document)

Motion to find the Government in Contempt of Parliament

Debate in the House of Commons started (on the 4 December 2018) to approve, or otherwise, the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration agreed between the UK and EU. Prior to starting the debate, a motion to find the Government in Contempt of Parliament was debated. This was considered as a result of the failure to provide “any and all legal advice provided to the Government”.

An earlier motion had been agreed “without dissent or objection” on 13 November 2018 …

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.

The motion to consider contempt on 4 December 2018 stated …

That this House finds Ministers in contempt for their failure to comply with the requirements of the motion for return passed on 13 November 2018, to publish the final and full legal advice provided by the Attorney General to the Cabinet concerning the EU Withdrawal Agreement and the framework for the future relationship, and orders its immediate publication.

Prior to the vote on the contempt motion, MP’s rejected the Government’s proposed amendment …

amendment … to leave out from “House” to the end and insert:

“refers to the Committee of Privileges the question of whether the Government’s response fulfils the motion passed on 13 November 2018 and requests the Committee to consider the constitutional and historic context and the proper use, ambit and scope of the motion for return procedure.”

This amendment was defeated by 311 to 307 votes. (In this vote, 2 Conservative MPS – Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone, and the 9 members of the DUP voted against the Government)

MPs voted in favour of the motion finding Ministers in contempt (of Parliament) for failing to publish the full legal advice given to the Cabinet, concerning the EU Withdrawal Agreement, by 311 to 293 votes and the Government were ordered to provide the full legal advice on the Brexit deal. (In this vote, 2 Conservative MPS – Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone, and the 9 members of the DUP voted against the Government)

Following the vote, Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House, announced that the legal advice would be made available to MP’s on 05 December. She also stated:

…recognising the serious constitutional issues that this raises, I have referred the matter to the Committee of Privileges so that it can consider the implications of the Humble Address.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Committee Stage

My previous report European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Committee Stage 1-3 covered the first three debates in the House of Commons during the Committee Stage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The next 5 debates were largely overshadowed with the “media excitement” generated by the possibility of the UK being allowed by the EU to discuss a future possible trading relationship between the UK and countries in the EU.

The debates were held

  • 4th sitting – 4th Dec 2017
  • 5th sitting – 6th Dec 2017
  • 6th sitting – 12th Dec 2017
  • 7th sitting – 13th Dec 2017
  • 8th sitting – 20th Dec 2017 (final)

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was considered and amended in a Committee of the whole House which was completed on Wednesday 20 December 2017.

Details for all the debates can be found on Parliament’s web-site at:

https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/europeanunionwithdrawal/stages.html

More than 500 amendments were considered for debate and a number of votes were taken during the proceedings.

New Clauses and Amendments considered in Committee of the whole House (excel spreadsheet).

An amendment by the Government to add the actual date and time of withdrawal from the EU to the Bill was accepted after a vote. This is defined as 29 March 2019 at 11.00 p.m.

The Government were only defeated following a vote to accept a proposed amendment by Dominic Grieve. Clause 9 allows the Government to use statutory instruments to implement the withdrawal agreement. This amendment requires Parliament to approve the final terms of the withdrawal agreement before the Government can implement the withdrawal agreement.

A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement if the Minister considers that such provision should be in force on or before exit day, subject to the prior enactment of a statute by Parliament approving the final terms of withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

Details of all the Committee Stages is summarised in an interesting article at the Institute for Government

EU Withdrawal Bill: amendments and debates

All the changes made to the original Bill are shown in the following document:

Version of the bill showing changes made in committee (pdf)

What happens next?

MP’s will next consider the Bill at Third Reading and Report Stage, known collectively as remaining stages. This will take place on Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 January 2018.

Documents related to Brexit from the EU Parliament

I came across a number of interesting documents related to Brexit that have been produced following various Events, Workshops and Committee meetings held by the European Parliament. They provide interesting reading and background to positions held by the EU regarding the Brexit negotiations and the future relationship between the UK and the EU after Brexit.

Workshops are organised by the policy departments and enable members to put questions to and exchange views with experts on subjects associated with parliamentary business or subjects of current interest. They are not necessarily held in public but may be held during a committee meeting.

Hearings
A committee is permitted to organise a hearing with experts, where this is considered essential to its work on a particular subject. Hearings can also be held jointly by two or more committees. Most committees organise regular hearings, as they allow them to hear from experts and hold discussions on the key issues.

Implications of ‘Brexit’ for the EU agri-food sector and the CAP

This workshop was held on 9 November 2017 and discussed the issue of the impact of Brexit on the EU’s agri-food sector and on the CAP.

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/events-workshops.html?id=20171114WKS01121

It looked at 3 specific aspects of Brexit:

  1. Impact on the CAP budget
  2. Impact on EU-UK agricultural trade flows and
  3. Possible transitional arrangements in agriculture in light of the future EU-UK relationship.

A number of documents were produced:

Possible impact of Brexit on the EU budget and, in particular, CAP funding – Jacques Delors Institute

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/132065/PPT_CAP_Financing_EN.pdf (pdf)

EU – UK agricultural trade: State of play and possible impacts of Brexit – CIREM-CEPII

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/132066/PPT_EU-UK%20Trade_EN.pdf (pdf)

Possible transitional arrangements related to agriculture in the light of the future EU – UK relationship: institutional issues – Trinity College Dublin

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/132067/PPT%20Template%20-%20A%20MATTHEWSrev.pdf (pdf)

The implications of Brexit on the Irish border

During the 28 November meeting of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, a workshop was held on ‘The implications of Brexit on the Irish border’. This workshop was organised by the Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs.

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/events-workshops.html?id=20171123WKS01141

Brexit and Ireland – Legal, Political and Economic Considerations (pdf)

Smart Border 2.0 – Avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland for Customs control and the free movement of persons (pdf)

PowerPoint Presentation on Smart Border 2.0 (ppt)

UK Withdrawal (‘Brexit’) and the Good Friday Agreement (pdf)

PowerPoint Presentation on ‘UK Withdrawal (‘Brexit’) and the Good Friday Agreement’ (ppt)

Hearing on the Impact of Brexit on Aviation – 11 July 2017

High level representatives in the field of aviation were invited to speak in the next TRAN Committee meeting on the topic of Brexit. Stakeholders discussed ways in which the UK’s departure from the EU is likely to impact the aviation industry from the perspective of the airports, the airlines and the tourism industry as a whole. The presentations were followed by a question and answer session with Members

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/events-hearings.html?id=20170705CHE02242

Hearing on the impact of Brexit on aviation (docx)

Kevin Toland, Dublin Airport (pdf)

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair (pptx)

Ralf Pastleitner, TUI Group (pdf)

Exchange of Views with Associations of Citizens on Brexit

held on 21 Nov 2017

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/events-other.html?id=20171123EOT01882

Statement from British in Europe (pdf)

Statement from the 3 million (pdf)

Brexit and the issue of the jurisdiction

During the AFCO meeting of 21 November, the Committee heard from two experts during the workshop ‘Brexit and the issue of the jurisdiction over the Withdrawal Agreement and the future relationship agreement between the EU and the UK’ organised by the Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs.

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/events-other.html?id=20171123EOT01881

The Settlement of Disputes arising from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU (pdf)

Professor Steve Peers presented a briefing on “Jurisdiction upon and after the UK’s withdrawal: the perspective from the UK constitutional order” (I couldn’t find a copy of this – politicker)

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Committee Stage 1-3

The committee stage of the Bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and make other provision in connection with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU ( European Union (Withdrawal) Bill) has begun in the House of Commons.

This process started on Tuesday 14 November (Day 1) then Wednesday 15th November (Day 2) and continued on Tuesday 21 November 2017 (Day 3). Further debate is scheduled for Monday 4 December (Day 4), Wednesday 6 December (Day 5), Tuesday 12 December (Day 6), and Wednesday 13 December (Day 7) with the conclusion of consideration in Committee taking place on Wednesday 20 December (Day 8).

All documents associated with the Bill can be found on the Parliament web-site at

https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/europeanunionwithdrawal/documents.html

Thus far, the bill has proceeded with no major amendments.

Complete details of the debates covering the first 3 sittings can be found at

https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/europeanunionwithdrawal/stages.html

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