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Analysis

“Meaningful vote” must mean MPs not May decides

by Nick Kent | 27.03.2018

Labour wants to toughen up the requirement for a meaningful parliamentary vote on the Brexit. It is right.

Over a year ago a junior Brexit minister assured MPs that once negotiations were completed with the EU, parliament would get a “meaningful vote” on the outcome. But months later Brexit secretary David Davis said there might not be time for such a vote before the UK leaves. As a result of this uncertainty, the Commons agreed to an amendment proposed by Dominic Grieve, a former Tory attorney-general, last December which puts the requirement for a parliamentary vote into law.

This was an important step towards ensuring that Parliament will get a proper vote on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. But even though the Grieve amendment passed, doubts remain. If there’s no deal with the EU, will there be a vote? Even if there’s a vote, will there be enough time to hold it? And what will MPs be voting about?

The first of these problems arises because the Grieve amendment did not provide for a vote if there is no deal between the UK and the EU. This was partly to do with the difficulty of drafting a legally effective amendment that would require a parliamentary vote in a vacuum – if there is no agreement, what is there to vote on?

The problem of whether there will be time for the vote to change anything before the UK leaves is also unresolved. Grieve amended Clause 9 of the EU (Withdrawal) BIll to prevent a minister from bringing forward regulations to implement Brexit unless there is an Act of Parliament agreeing to the Brexit deal. Critics of the government fear that it might get round that provision by simply not bringing forward any regulations until after Brexit day. Although that seems unlikely, it is technically possible.

The final problem with the current legislation is that it does not specify what choice MPs and peers would be presented with. Downing Street said yesterday “that there will be a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal where Parliament can choose to either accept that deal or we can leave without a deal, but we will be leaving the European Union on March 29, 2019”. Many members of both Houses think that binary choice is wrong and parliamentarians must have the option to reject Brexit or flip the decision back to the public if the deal isn’t good enough or there is no deal.

No. 10 issued its statement because Keir Starmer announced that Labour now supports amending the EU (Withdrawal) Bill again. The shadow Brexit secretary specifically rejected Downing Street’s take-it-or-leave-it approach, describing it as “totally unacceptable”.

Labour’s preference is for the government to be sent back to the negotiating table if Parliament rejects the prime minister’s deal. But Starmer said the amendment would make clear that it would be for Parliament to decide what should happen. That leaves open other possibilities, including asking voters whether they want the deal or would prefer to stay in the EU – something which is not currently Labour policy.

The text of Labour’s amendment has not been tabled but it is expected to command cross-party support when it is voted on in the House of Lords after Easter. Parliamentarians of all parties should support defending the sovereignty of Parliament. After all, bringing back power to our sovereign Parliament was what the Leave vote was about, wasn’t it?

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

3 Responses to ““Meaningful vote” must mean MPs not May decides”

  • It is right that parliament have a final vote on the final agreement regarding our relationship with the 27 EU members at the conclusion of Brexit. However, one has only to look at the way that MPs, particularly those who purported to be in favour of remaining in Europe, have in many instances ‘rolled over’ and accepted much of the political bilge and false facts delivered by May and her cabal of intellectually deficient Brexiteers who clearly have not a clue what commerce, marketing, trade etc actually means In terms of delivering, often from scratch, meaningful deals that produce revenues for organisations and tax receipts to the Treasury.
    To me, what is evident is that many MPs, my own included, will go with the flow to protect their ‘status’, income, perks etc, ensuring that they and their party get what suits them – not the nation.

    In the main, it is clear to me, we cannot trust parliament 100% on a question so crucial to this country’s future across a spectrum of economic issues, security, defence etc. Anyone reading a newspaper other that the pro Brexit Press (Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph, Mail and others) is daily mislead over even basic facts.

  • It is right that parliament have a final vote on the final agreement regarding our relationship with the 27 EU members at the conclusion of Brexit. However, one has only to look at the way that MPs, particularly those who purported to be in favour of remaining in Europe, have in many instances ‘rolled over’ and accepted much of the political bilge and false facts delivered by May and her cabal of intellectually deficient Brexiteers who clearly have not a clue what commerce, marketing, trade etc actually means In terms of delivering, often from scratch, meaningful deals that produce revenues for organisations and tax receipts to the Treasury.
    To me, what is evident is that many MPs, my own included, will go with the flow to protect their ‘status’, income, perks etc, ensuring that they and their party get what suits them – not the nation.

    In the main, it is clear to me, we cannot trust parliament 100% to vote on a question so crucial to this country’s future across a spectrum of economic issues, security, defence, research etc. Anyone reading a newspaper other than the pro Brexit Press (Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph, Mail and others) should take time to familiarise themselves with the more realistic side relating to a now increasingly dangerous issues pending – affecting matters that Johnson, and his puppet Gove were completely unaware where the Brexit voyage would take us all. Ask a Brexiteer what will be the outcome from Brexit – their brains )?) freeze as they try in vain to produce a quantifiable response .

  • The whole Brexit catastrophe has been brought about by Westminster incompetence. What a daft idea to have an ill thought out ‘advisory’ referendum, and after a result which was against the opinions of all three major parties …. and the Scots and Irish…. why have the twits from Westminster done an about face, pretending to follow ‘the will of the people’? So, if slavishly following the will of the people, against the judgement of the majority of MPs and Cabinet ministers in 2016 was OK, then it seems logical that ‘the will of the people’ should be heard again before some pathetic deal is done in a year’s time. If there isn’t a second referendum, (why not?), then at least our elected representatives should be authorised to block a deal which is worse for the 65 million in the U.K. than the status quo. I know that 17m votes for Leave was a ‘win’…..but does 17 out of 65 really mean a mandate?