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.
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.
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.
This week MPs will scrutinise the #EUWithdrawalBill. Amendments will be selected at the start of the debate – votes could take place through day. Tues afternoon will focus on Clauses 1 and 6 and Wed afternoon Clauses 2, 3 & 4 – see Bill page https://t.co/0Jxt4B3AJt #Brexit
— Commons Press Office (@HoCPress) November 13, 2017
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.
“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