Lords’ meaningful vote amendment is critical

by Hugo Dixon | 29.04.2018

Tomorrow’s vote in the House of Lords could pave the way for a people’s vote on the Brexit deal and stop us crashing out if there’s no deal. It could also prevent Theresa May dragging her heels so that Parliament has no time to do either of these things.

The House of Commons passed an amendment ensuring that Parliament would have a “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal before Christmas. This was the famous victory led by Dominic Grieve and the Tory “mutineers”. However, that amendment didn’t quite do the trick – mainly because it didn’t cover the possibility of “no deal”, provide any timetable or enshrine various government promises in law.

The new belt-and-braces Amendment 49 remedies these defects. It provides that the government can’t conclude a withdrawal agreement with the EU unless the House of Commons approves it by a resolution and the House of Lords considers the matter. The government can’t then implement such a divorce deal unless Parliament passes legislation approving it.

The prime minister has already promised that Parliament will have a meaningful vote as soon as she finishes her negotiations – and, if possible, before the European Parliament starts ratifying it. She has also promised new legislation. It will be good to have these promises hard-wired in law now.

Demand a vote on the Brexit deal

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But the really important innovation in Amendment 49 is a timetable. In particular, it sets a deadline of November 30 for MPs to approve the Brexit deal. This is key because the House of Commons will almost certainly be able to amend the resolution to approve the deal, as David Davis, the Brexit secretary, confirmed last week.

If MPs don’t like the Brexit deal, they will then have options. They could, for example, tell the prime minister to go back to the EU and negotiate a different deal. Even better, they could ask the people whether they want the deal and give them the option to stay in if they don’t. There should be just enough time to do these things because the November 30 deadline is four months before we are scheduled to quit the EU on March 29 next year.

The amendment doesn’t exactly require the government to hit the end-November deadline. What it says is that, if the prime minister misses it, MPs will be able to tell her how to conduct our negotiations with the EU.

It also sets a deadline of February 28 to cover the “no deal” scenario. If there’s no deal by then, MPs can then instruct the PM what to do. This is an emergency brake that could stop us crashing out into chaos.

Amendment 49 has strong cross-party support in the House of Lords, virtually guaranteeing a big majority tomorrow. With Labour backing it and the Tory mutineer MPs expected to do so too when the legislation returns to  the Commons, it has a good chance of becoming law.

6 Responses to “Lords’ meaningful vote amendment is critical”

  • Parliamentary sovereignty at work you see. Something many a Brexiter claimed they wanted all along and voted to leave the EU to secure it. Of course, when presented with such sovereignty up close and personal, they reject it as being ‘unpatriotic’ and against the ‘will of the people’!

  • In the unlikely event that any remain politicians are reading this, the amendments must force the government to spellout the full economic consequences of whatever “deal” they obtain. Brexit is built upon castles in the air. We are promised free-trade deals; jumbo free trade deals; global (even buccaneering) Britain, but there is no detail in any of this. To make an informed decision, parliament must be given impartial financial advice on the current situation versus each of the proposed solutions that the government endorses – no more “we don not recognise” nonsense. When the British people appreciate the economic consequences of Brexit there will be real anger and an enormous sense of betrayal. Parliament must be given the hard economic facts of the proposed course for Brexit.

    The date for the Brexit vote is 30 November, Winston Churchill’s birthday! I believe my grandfather would turn in his grave at the current wishy-washy mess. I refer you to his 1946 speech in Zurich, where to avoid future wars, he called for a United States of Europe.
    Edwina Sandys – 30th April, 2018

  • Well, not before time, eh? I suspect we are going to have to go to the wall with this Brexit lark, while its purveyors look for rocks to hide under when the fire starts. We are paying for years of substandard civics education. The big question is, can the general public educate itself enough to know what is in its best interest before they have to make the crucial decision? We certainly can’t rely on the BBC to help explain the importance of the EU to our success as a country. Auntie Beeb has almost become Aunt Lydia. Thank you for websites like this one, but we need more.

  • I’ve noticed that when making a case not to accept Lords amendments, Government spokesmen keep using the argument that the Government’s hands should not be tied as this would prevent a “good deal”, “favourable outcome” or similar being negotiated.
    This begs the question of what is a “good deal” or “favourable outcome”. On some aspects there may be a general consensus, such as a lower financial settlement, but on many other issues, what constitutes a “good deal” will be highly questionable. Will exclusion from the Single Market and Customs Union, requirement for travel visas, dilution of EU and UK expats rights, exclusion from Erasmus and joint research programmes all form part of a “good deal”? Ministers need to be confronted far more vigorously than what we have seen to date, over the substance of what they are negotiating. MPs and Lords must not allow themselves to be fobbed off so easily.

  • To me the truth is all too clear. Brexit is a conspiracy hiding in plain sight: it’s all about the desire of a band of very rich people to get even richer, and it’s called “disaster capitalism”. In the world of finance you make money by buying when prices are low and selling when they are high. The wilder the fluctuations, the more profit you make. Brexit provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to crash the economy then buy up everything of value while it’s cheap.

    The Brexiteers – Rees-Mogg, Redwood, Johnson and their friends in the right-wing press – already have funds safely outside the Sterling area and they’re pushing for the hardest of Brexits in the knowledge that it will do massive harm to the economy. They pretend to be guarding the interests of the little people but their true motive is naked self-interest. They have not an ounce of compassion between them and the rest of us are just disposable assets. Why look for a noble motive when there isn’t one? It’s all about greed – for money and for power.

    Fortunately there are honourable people in the Upper House – and a few in the Lower – with the intelligence and guts to stand in the way of a Very British Coup.

    It surprises me so few commentators have looked at the people behind Brexit; their wealth, how they obtained it and why “taking back control” matters so much to them. Our democracy, fundamental freedoms and way of life are at stake here, and even if we can’t stop Brexit there’s still a lot to play for.