BrexitCentral: What the ‘meaningful vote’ and ‘exit date’ amendments are really about

18 December 2017

Pro-Remain Tory MPs have opposed the government on many aspects of the EU Withdrawal Bill. So far, they have succeeded in inflicting a damaging defeat in Committee stage when Amendment 7, proposed by Dominic Grieve QC MP, was passed against the government’s wishes with the aid of Labour, LibDem and SNP votes. This amendment was billed as giving Parliament a “meaningful vote” on approving the terms of the prospective withdrawal agreement with the EU, but its actual effect is rather different as I shall explain.

Now, we are coming up to a vote on whether the “exit date” should be written into the Bill. It is widely rumoured that a compromise proposed by Sir Oliver Letwin MP will be accepted by all (at least on the Conservative side), under which the “exit date” (11pm on 29 March 2019) will be written into the Bill, but with a clause permitting that date to be varied in certain limited circumstances.

What Amendment 7 really does

It was always clear that Parliament would have a meaningful vote on the terms of any agreement under which we leave the EU. This is because any such agreement will entail making changes to UK domestic law. So Parliament has to approve those changes, or they cannot come into force, which makes it impossible for the UK to implement such an agreement and therefore to ratify it.

In addition, the government has assured Parliament that such steps will be taken by an Act of Parliament, so there will be no short cuts through using some statutory instrument procedure. So what is Amendment 7 about?

To read the rest of Martin Howe’s piece for BrexitCentral, click here.

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