Response to the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration: Assessing the Options Contents


1.On 15 January 2019, the House of Commons voted by 432 votes to 202 not to approve the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the Future Framework for Relations between the EU and the UK. We published our response the following day, calling on the Government to hold a series of indicative votes on a series of options for how to proceed that the Committee set out. The Government has now tabled a motion in neutral terms following the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement. The House will meet on 29 January to debate this and any amendments tabled.

2.The First Option that we identified on 16 January was to hold another vote in Parliament on the draft Withdrawal Agreement and Framework for the Future Relationship. In our report of 16 January we said “the scale of the defeat on 15 January would suggest that a repeat of the vote without significant changes would be futile.”1 Furthermore, we examined those documents in detail in our tenth Report and therefore we have not done so again here.2

3.The Second Option that we identified was to leave the EU with no deal on 29 March 2019. The implications of such an outcome are examined in further detail in Chapter 2.

4.The Third Option was to call on the Government to seek to re-negotiate the deal to achieve a specific outcome. The three main renegotiations possibilities that we identified were:

3(a) Seeking changes to the text in the Withdrawal Agreement on the backstop arrangements;

3(b) Seeking a Canada-style deal; and

3(c) Seeking to join the EEA through the EFTA pillar and remaining in a customs union with the EU or a variation on this.

5.We comment further on each of these possibilities in Chapter 3. We also carried out detailed scrutiny of a number of models for the future UK-EU relationship in our Fourth Report of this Session, including the current relationship between Norway and the EU, based on the EEA Agreement, and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement negotiated between the EU and Canada. While these “off the shelf” models provided a useful guide, we noted in our report that “there is no precedent for Brexit and any deal reached between the UK and the EU on the UK’s future relationship will, by its nature be bespoke.”3

6.The Fourth Option that we identified was that Parliament could decide to hold a second referendum to allow the British people to decide either which kind of Brexit deal they want or whether they wished to remain in the EU. We set out the procedural and logistical questions that would need to be addressed if the House were to pursue this course of action in Chapter Four. Holding a second referendum would certainly require an extension to the Article 50 period and we also examine the practicalities of seeking such an extension, either for this purpose or for any other purpose, including seeking a renegotiation of the deal, in that chapter.

7.We welcome the Prime Minister’s undertaking to increase her engagement with Parliament in negotiations on the future partnership if a Withdrawal Agreement is reached. We also welcome her undertaking to give an enhanced role to the devolved administrations. If a deal is agreed, we look forward to seeing the PM’s proposals on this increased engagement and will undertake further work on the role that the UK Parliament and the devolved administrations might play in shaping negotiations on the future partnership.

1 Eleventh Report of Session, 2017–19, HC1902, para 7

2 Tenth Report of Session 2017–19, HC1778

3 Fourth Report of Session 2017–19, HC935, para 174

Published: 28 January 2019