Parliamentary scrutiny and approval of the Withdrawal Agreement and negotiations on a future relationship Contents


1.Following the EU referendum result in June 2016, the United Kingdom is currently negotiating a Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union. Under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the European Parliament must ‘consent’ to the Withdrawal Agreement before the EU Council of Ministers can adopt the deal. Our predecessor Committee noted in its First Report of the last Parliament that there is no equivalent power for the UK Parliament and called on the Government to make it clear that Parliament would have a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement with time for proper consideration of the agreement beforehand.1 In its response to that Report, the Government confirmed it would “bring forward a motion on the final agreement to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it is concluded” and that this would happen before the European Parliament’s vote. It also expected that the vote would cover both the Withdrawal Agreement and the UK-EU future relationship.2

2.By October 2018, the Government and the European Union intend to have reached agreement on two documents. The first is the Withdrawal Agreement, a treaty that will set out the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU, including provisions for a transition / implementation period. This document, once signed and ratified, will have the force of international law. The second is the Political Declaration on the framework for a future relationship, which will set out the terms of the UK’s long-term relationship with the EU but will not be a treaty.

3.On 13 December 2017, the Rt Hon David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, made a written statement to the House in which he set out the process by which Parliament would be asked to approve and implement the agreements on EU exit, confirming that the parliamentary vote would be held as soon as possible after negotiations have concluded and would take the form of a motion to approve both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration.3 The Statement also confirmed that the Government would only introduce the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill to give domestic legal effect to the Withdrawal Agreement if the motion is passed in Parliament and that the Withdrawal Agreement would also be subject to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 procedures for treaty ratification.

4.Section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 places the commitments made by the Government to a parliamentary vote to approve the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on a statutory footing.

5.In this report we consider the role Parliament will play in approving and implementing the Withdrawal Agreement and the terms of the future relationship and its scrutiny role after the UK leaves the European Union. We held two oral evidence sessions with procedural, legal and EU experts and with Ministers from the Department for Exiting the European Union. We also held two informal briefings with in-house experts from the House of Commons Library and Speaker’s Counsel, and from the Institute for Government. We are grateful to all those who have given evidence to this inquiry.

1 Committee on Exiting the European Union, First Report of Session 2016–17, The process for exiting the European Union and the Government’s negotiating objectives, HC 815, para 168

2 Committee on Exiting the European Union, First Special Report of Session 2016–17, The process for exiting the European Union and the Government’s negotiating objectives: Government’s Response to the Committee’s First Report, HC 1101, para 63

3 Department for Exiting the European Union HCWS342, Procedures for the Approval and Implementation of EU Exit Agreements, 13 December 2017

Published: 28 June 2018