UK Parliament Will Get Binding Vote on Brexit Deal

Simon Veazey
By Simon Veazey
November 14, 2017UKshare
UK Parliament Will Get Binding Vote on Brexit Deal
A protester draped in a European Union flag takes part in a protest in support of an amendment to guarantee legal status of EU citizens, outside the Houses of Parliament in London on March 13, 2017. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)

British lawmakers will be able to veto the Brexit agreement currently being negotiated between Britain and the EU, the government announced on Monday Nov. 13.

The newly announced bill, called the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill, means parliament will be given a binding vote on any deal with the EU, which must be struck before the deadline of March 29 2019.

In theory, the move is a climbdown by the government that grants the parliament the final say-so on Brexit. In reality, however, the vote offers only “take-it or leave-it” options—if lawmakers do not agree to the deal, then Brexit will still go ahead.

Brexit Secretary David Davis arrives at Number 10 Downing Street on Nov. 13, 2017, in London. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Any deal struck with the EU is likely to involve agreements over money and citizen rights. Significantly, it could also involve an agreement to a “transition” or potentially an extension of the negotiating period.

If Britain does not strike a bespoke deal with the EU by March 29 2019, then it will “crash out” of the EU, meaning its relationship with the EU will follow the off-the-peg rules of the World Trade Organisation.

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Number 10 Downing Street on Nov. 13, 2017, in London. Mrs May held a meeting with European business leaders over their concerns about the future of UK-EU trade arrangements after Brexit. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Theresa May’s government, charged with implementing Brexit, has come under pressure from rebels within her own party who want greater parliamentary scrutiny over the Brexit process.

Many political analysts believe the announcement is an attempt to smooth feathers ruffled by the controversial centre-piece of Brexit legislation, a separate bill which is due to be debated this week in parliament, starting on Tuesday, Nov. 14.

EU and British laws, rules and regulations have been so enmeshed over the decades, picking and choosing which EU legislation to keep and which to ditch could require up to a decade. Simply severing all legislation and regulations that were once tied to the EU in one fell swoop is not possible.

The government’s solution is the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which will “copy and paste” EU regulations into UK law—allowing lawmakers to reject them piecemeal in future, according to any future mandates from the electorate.

Critics of the bill, however, say that it hands the government wide-ranging powers and will cut parliament out of some Brexit planning.

Brexit secretary David Davis outlined plans for the new Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill to the House of Commons on Monday, Nov. 13.

“I can now confirm that once we’ve reached an agreement we will bring forward a specific piece of primary legislation to implement that agreement,” Davis told parliament.

Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Davis (L) and EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arrive to address the media following a sixth round of Brexit talks at the European Union Commission building in Brussels on Nov. 10, 2017. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

“This also means that parliament will be given time to debate, scrutinise and vote on the final agreement we strike with the European Union. This agreement will only hold if parliament approves it.”

The government had previously given assurances that parliament would be given a vote on the Brexit deal as part of the other bill. However, the newly announced bill enshrines that promise into primary legislation—meaning that agreement to or rejection of the deal will be made as an act of parliament.

“The Bill is expected to cover the contents of the Withdrawal Agreement, including issues such as an agreement on citizens’ rights, any financial settlement and the details of an implementation period agreed between both sides.”

Some MPs welcomed the move, but others said the change in procedure would mean that if Britain failed to negotiate a deal with the EU, parliament would have no say, and that there would not be time for a proper chance to have sway over a deal.

“Hasn’t he just given the game away on what a sham offer this is? Totally worthless to parliament, essentially trying to buy off people,” Chris Leslie, a member of the opposition Labour Party and a pro-EU campaigner, said.

Reuters contributed to this report

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