EU Withdrawal Bill – update 14 June 2018

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill returned to the House of Commons from the House of Lords on Tuesday 12 June as part of the process known as “ping-pong”. 15 amendments were added to the Bill by the Lords and were debated over the 12th and 13th June in the House of Commons.

The Government accepted one of the amendments, 8 were rejected, and MPs accepted Government changes to the remaining 6 amendments.

Notes on the amendments are available at:

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2017-2019/0111/18111.1-7.html

and are also summarized in more detail at:

https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/eu-withdrawal-bill-amendments-and-debates

A major issue concerned an amendment that would allow MPs to decide the next course of action if Parliament were to reject the Government’s final Brexit deal with the EU or if no deal is reached. This would hand control of the negotiations to MP’s to set and negotiate a Brexit deal with the EU.

A number of “remainer” Tory “rebels”, led by Dominic Grieve, had threatened to vote against the Government (of which they are a part) unless significant concessions were made. Tory MP Philip Lee resigned from his role as a junior Justice Minister in order to vote against the Government. The PM held talks with more than 14 Tory rebels prior to the vote and appeared to have persuaded the rebels not to vote against the Government. She promised to address the rebels concerns in an amendment to be returned to the House of Lords. The Government won the vote by 324 votes to 298.

Following the votes, there was little time left to debate concerns raised by the SNP over Brexit and its affect on devolution. This sparked a walkout by all SNP MPs during Prime Ministers Questions after their leader Ian Blackford clashed with the Speaker John Bercow.

Labour were not without their own troubles with 75 MPs voting in favour of the amendment for the UK to join the European Economic Area after Brexit and 15 voting against. The labour party leadership had ordered its MPs to abstain. This also caused 5 MPs to quit their front bench posts in order to vote.

Th Bill was subsequently returned to the House of Lords for further debate due on Monday 18th June 2018.