Withdrawal Agreement

Statement by Donald Tusk on Brexit 20 March 2019

Statement by Donald Tusk on Brexit 20 March 2019 after receiving a letter from Theresa May asking for an extension to the Article 50 period which is due to expire on 29 March 2019.

…I believe that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons…

State in full,

Today I received a letter from Prime Minister May, in which she addresses the European Council with two requests: to approve the so-called Strasbourg agreement between the UK and the European Commission, and to extend the Article 50 period until 30 June 2019. Just now I had a phone call with Prime Minister May about these proposals.

In the light of the consultations that I have conducted over the past days, I believe that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons. The question remains open as to the duration of such an extension. Prime Minister May’s proposal, of 30 June, which has its merits, creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature. Leaders will discuss this tomorrow. When it comes to the approval of the Strasbourg agreement, I believe that this is possible, and in my view it does not create risks. Especially if it were to help the ratification process in the United Kingdom.

At this time I do not foresee an extraordinary European Council. If the leaders approve my recommendations, and if there is a positive vote in the House of Commons next week, we can finalise and formalise the decision on the extension in a written procedure. However, if there is such a need, I will not hesitate to invite the members of the European Council for a meeting to Brussels next week.

Even if the hope for a final success may seem frail, even illusory, and although Brexit fatigue is increasingly visible and justified, we cannot give up seeking – until the very last moment – a positive solution, of course without opening up the Withdrawal Agreement. We have reacted with patience and goodwill to numerous turns of events, and I am confident that, also now, we will not lack the same patience and goodwill, at this most critical point in this process. Thank you.

Withdrawal Agreement

Shenanigans – Meaningful Vote (3)

John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons in the UK Parliament made a statement on 18 March 2019 regarding the Meaningful Vote motion, quoting a parliamentary convention from 415 years ago.

Speaker’s Statement

Speakers Statment

I wish to make a statement to the House. There has been much speculation over the past week about the possibility of the Government bringing before the House a motion on Brexit for another so-called meaningful vote under the statutory framework provided in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. On 13 March, however, the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) asked on a point of order, at column 394, whether it would be proper for the Government to keep bringing the same deal back to the House ad infinitum. I replied that no ruling was necessary at that stage, but that one might be required at some point in the future. Subsequently Members on both sides of the House, and indeed on both sides of the Brexit argument, have expressed their concerns to me about the House being repeatedly asked to pronounce on the same fundamental proposition.

The 24th edition of “Erskine May” states on page 397:

“A motion or an amendment which is the same, in substance, as a question which has been decided during a session may not be brought forward again during that same session.”

It goes on to state:

“Attempts have been made to evade this rule by raising again, with verbal alterations, the essential portions of motions which have been negatived. Whether the second motion is substantially the same as the first is finally a matter for the judgment of the Chair.”

This convention is very strong and of long standing, dating back to 2 April 1604. Last Thursday, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) quoted examples of occasions when the ruling had been reasserted by four different Speakers of this House, notably in 1864, 1870, 1882, 1891 and 1912. Each time, the Speaker of the day ruled that a motion could not be brought back because it had already been decided in that same Session of Parliament. Indeed, “Erskine May” makes reference to no fewer than 12 such rulings up to the year 1920.

One of the reasons why the rule has lasted so long is that it is a necessary rule to ensure the sensible use of the House’s time and proper respect for the decisions that it takes. Decisions of the House matter. They have weight. In many cases, they have direct effects not only here but on the lives of our constituents. Absence of Speaker intervention since 1920 is attributable not to the discontinuation of the convention but to general compliance with it; thus, as “Erskine May” notes, the Public Bill Office has often disallowed Bills on the ground that a Bill with the same or very similar long title cannot be presented again in the same Session.

So far as our present situation is concerned, let me summarise the chronology of events. The draft EU withdrawal agreement, giving effect to the deal between the Government and the EU, was published on 14 November and the agreement itself, together with the accompanying political declaration on the future relationship, received endorsement from the European Council on 25 November. The first scheduled debate on what I will hereafter refer to as “the deal” was due to take place on 11 December. However, on 10 December the vote was postponed after 164 speeches had already been made over three of the five days allotted for debate. That postponement was caused not by me or by the House, but by the Government. Indeed, I pointed ​out at the time that that was deeply discourteous to the House and I suggested that the permission of the House for that postponement should be sought. Regrettably, it was not.

Over five weeks later, following a further five-day debate, the first meaningful vote was held on 15 January, which the Government lost by a margin of 230 votes—the largest in parliamentary history. Subsequently, the second meaningful vote was expected to take place in February, but once again there was a postponement. It finally happened only last Tuesday, 12 March. The Government’s motion on the deal was again very heavily defeated.

In my judgment, that second meaningful vote motion did not fall foul of the convention about matters already having been decided during the same Session. This was because it could be credibly argued that it was a different proposition from that already rejected by the House on 15 January. It contained a number of legal changes which the Government considered to be binding and which had been agreed with the European Union after intensive discussions. Moreover, the Government’s second meaningful vote motion was accompanied by the publication of three new documents—two issued jointly with the EU and a unilateral declaration from the UK not objected to by the EU. In procedural terms, it was therefore quite proper that the debate and the second vote took place last week. The Government responded to its defeat, as they had promised to do, by scheduling debates about a no-deal Brexit and an extension of article 50 on 13 and 14 March respectively.

It has been strongly rumoured, although I have not received confirmation of this, that a third, and even possibly a fourth, meaningful vote motion will be attempted. Hence this statement, which is designed to signal what would be orderly and what would not. This is my conclusion: if the Government wish to bring forward a new proposition that is neither the same nor substantially the same as that disposed of by the House on 12 March, that would be entirely in order. What the Government cannot legitimately do is to resubmit to the House the same proposition or substantially the same proposition as that of last week, which was rejected by 149 votes. This ruling should not be regarded as my last word on the subject; it is simply meant to indicate the test which the Government must meet in order for me to rule that a third meaningful vote can legitimately be held in this parliamentary Session.

Withdrawal Agreement

PM statement in the House of Commons: 12 March 2019

Following a vote on a motion to accept the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Political Declaration negotiated between the UK and EU, the PM gave the following statement in the House of Commons.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker,

I profoundly regret the decision that this House has taken tonight. I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is that the UK leaves the EU in an orderly fashion with a deal, and that the deal we have negotiated is the best and indeed the only deal available.

Mr Speaker, I would like to set out briefly how the Government means to proceed.

Two weeks ago, I made a series of commitments from this despatch box regarding the steps we would take in the event that this House rejected the deal on offer. I stand by those commitments in full. Therefore, tonight we will table a motion for debate tomorrow to test whether the House supports leaving the European Union without a deal on 29 March. The Leader of the House will shortly make an emergency business statement confirming the change to tomorrow’s business.

This is an issue of grave importance for the future of our country. Just like the referendum, there are strongly held and equally legitimate views on both sides. For that reason, I can confirm that this will be a free vote on this side of the House.

I have personally struggled with this choice as I am sure many other Honourable Members will. I am passionate about delivering the result of the referendum. But I equally passionately believe that the best way to do that is to leave in an orderly way with a deal and I still believe there is a majority in the House for that course of action. And I am conscious also of my duties as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of the potential damage to the Union that leaving without a deal could do when one part of our country is without devolved governance.

I can therefore confirm that the motion will read:

That this House declines to approve leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework on the Future Relationship on 29 March 2019; and notes that leaving without a deal remains the default in UK and EU law unless this House and the EU ratify an agreement.

I will return to the House to open the debate tomorrow and to take interventions from Honourable Members. And to ensure the House is fully informed in making this historic decision, the Government will tomorrow publish information on essential policies which would need to be put in place if we were to leave without a deal. These will cover our approach to tariffs and the Northern Ireland border, among other matters.

If the House votes to leave without a deal on 29 March, it will be the policy of the Government to implement that decision.

If the House declines to approve leaving without a deal on 29 March, the Government will, following that vote, bring forward a motion on Thursday on whether Parliament wants to seek an extension to Article 50.

If the House votes for an extension, the Government will seek to agree that extension with the EU and bring forward the necessary legislation to change the exit date commensurate with that extension.

But let me be clear. Voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension does not solve the problems we face. The EU will want to know what use we mean to make of such an extension.

This House will have to answer that question. Does it wish to revoke Article 50? Does it want to hold a second referendum? Or does it want to leave with a deal but not this deal?

These are unenviable choices, but thanks to the decision the House has made this evening they must now be faced.

Withdrawal Agreement

Debate and vote on the EU Withdrawal Act 13(1)(b)

The motion to be debated and voted on in the House of Commons on 12 March 2019 is as follows:

That this House approves for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 the following documents laid before the House on Monday 11 March 2019:

(1) the negotiated withdrawal agreement titled ‘Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’;

(2) the framework for the future relationship titled ‘Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom’;

(3) the legally binding joint instrument titled ‘Instrument relating to the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’, which reduces the risk the UK could be deliberately held in the Northern Ireland backstop indefinitely and commits the UK and the EU to work to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020;

(4) the unilateral declaration by the UK titled ‘Declaration by Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning the Northern Ireland Protocol’, setting out the sovereign action the UK would take to provide assurance that the backstop would only be applied temporarily; and

(5) the supplement to the framework for the future relationship titled ‘Joint Statement supplementing the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’, setting out commitments by the UK and the EU to expedite the negotiation and bringing into force of their future relationship.

Although a number of amendments were suggested, none have been selected for debate by the Speaker. (Details available in the Summary Agenda and Order of Business for 12 March 2019 at

Voting, on the motion, is due to take place around 7:00pm


The result of the vote was:

242 votes in favour of the motion and 391 against

The DUP party (10 votes) voted against the motion together with 75 Conservative MPs.

Withdrawal Agreement

European Union (Withdrawal) Act – The Meaningful Vote

The final day of debate on the Meaningful Vote was held on 15 January 2019.

As a reminder, the motion being debated is:

That this House approves for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title “Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community” and the framework for the future relationship laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title “Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom”.

In addition, the Speaker has selected a number of amendments to include as follows

(a), in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn;

(k), in the name of the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford);

(b), in the name of the right hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh);

(f), in the name of the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron).

If amendment (b) is agreed to, amendment (f) falls

The amendments will be put to a vote before the main vote takes place which is scheduled for around 7:00pm – the only amendment which actually put to a vote was (f)

Amendment proposed: (f): at end, add

“subject to changes being made in the Withdrawal Agreement and in the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol so that the UK has the right to terminate the Protocol without having to secure the agreement of the EU.”

which was defeated by 24 votes in favour and 600 against.

The Meaningful Vote then followed, on the deal agreed between the Prime Minister and the EU, the result being 202 votes in favour and 432 against the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Political Declaration, resulting in a defeat for the Government. In fact this result is the worst for any Government since the 1920s with a majority of 230 against the Government. In total 118 Conservative and 18 DUP MPs voted against the Government.

Following the defeat Theresa May stated:

…I can therefore confirm that if the official Opposition table a confidence motion this evening in the form required by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, the Government will make time to debate that motion tomorrow. If, as happened before Christmas, the official Opposition decline to do so, we will on this occasion consider making time tomorrow to debate any motion in the form required from the other Opposition parties should they put one forward …

This was followed by Jeremy Corbyn

…I therefore inform you, Mr Speaker, that I have now tabled a motion of no confidence in this Government, and I am pleased that that motion will be debated tomorrow so that this House can give its verdict on the sheer incompetence of this Government and pass that motion of no confidence in the Government….

So the next step is for Parliament to spend time debating and ultimately voting on a Vote of Confidence in the Government – this is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 16 January 2019. It is highly likely that the Government will defeat the motion with rebel MP’s, both those in favour of Brexit and anti-Brexit Conservateive MPs, together with DUP MPs voting against the motion.

If the Governmment defeats the motion, Theresa May has committed to return to Parliament within 3 “sitting” days to present a new Brexit plan as the current proposal has been voted down. This should happen, at the latest, by Monday 21 January 2019.

So what next …