Government loses ‘meaningful vote’ on Withdrawal Agreement

Posted in UK and EU legal framework The Withdrawal Agreement

The Government has lost the meaningful vote in Parliament in relation to approval of the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

As set out previously, European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (the ‘Withdrawal Act’) sets out a scheme whereby the Government must secure explicit Parliamentary approval of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration on the future relationship. The Withdrawal Act provides that where the draft agreement is not approved by the House of Commons, as is now the case, the Government must make a statement about how it ‘proposes to proceed’. A Minister must then move a motion in neutral terms in the Commons to the effect that the House ‘has considered’ the statement. This motion has no direct legal effects.

Although s.13(4) of the Withdrawal Act provides that such statement must be made within 21 calendar days, on 14 January 2019, Parliament passed the so-called ‘Grieve Amendment’, which requires the Government to return to Parliament within 3 working days to set out how it intends to proceed. However, in view of the size of the Government’s defeat, the Prime Minister would have had to return to Parliament almost immediately in any event.

As a result of the vote there are likely to be significant political developments over the coming days given that there is now little time to determine the terms on which the UK leaves the EU, with Brexit set to happen in less than three months on 29 March 2019.

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