Scrutinising Brexit: the role of Parliament Contents

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

Why is parliamentary scrutiny necessary?

1.Parliament’s role in the forthcoming negotiations on withdrawal from the EU will be critical to their success: ratification of any treaties arising out of the negotiations will require parliamentary approval, while national legislation giving effect to the withdrawal and new relationship will need to be enacted by both Houses. (Paragraph 7)

2.Parliament has a duty to scrutinise and hold the Government to account for decisions that will profoundly affect the United Kingdom. It will also be a vital forum for public debate and challenge, on the many issues that will arise in the course of negotiations. (Paragraph 8)

3.Finally, effective parliamentary scrutiny will help to ensure that there is an ‘audit trail’ for future generations. (Paragraph 9)

The shape and timing of the negotiations

4.The wording in Article 50(2) places a legal obligation on those negotiating the withdrawal agreement to take account of the framework of the new relationship. In other words, the withdrawal negotiations should take place in the knowledge, at the very least, of the likely shape of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. (Paragraph 14)

5.There can also be no doubt that the parties to the withdrawal negotiation will enjoy discretion, if they decide it is in their mutual interest, to negotiate a new relationship in considerable detail. In principle they could decide that the agreement on a new relationship should come into force immediately upon withdrawal. Such an approach would provide the greatest certainty for both sides. (Paragraph 15)

Scrutiny of all stages of the negotiations

6.We emphasise that the substance of what is under discussion, rather than the formal stage in the withdrawal process, should be reflected in an appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny. Effective scrutiny, if it is to achieve the objectives we have described, will be essential at all stages, including:

Confidentiality and transparency

7.We acknowledge that certain elements of the forthcoming negotiations, particularly those relating to trade, may have to be conducted confidentially. We would expect parliamentary scrutiny of the negotiations to strike an appropriate balance between transparency and confidentiality, while achieving the overarching objective of holding the Government effectively to account. (Paragraph 22)

A scrutiny model for Parliament

8.We believe that the House of Lords can best contribute to effective parliamentary oversight of the forthcoming negotiations by charging the European Union Committee with explicit responsibility for scrutinising the negotiations. This will require revised terms of reference for the European Union Committee, possibly underpinned by a new scrutiny reserve resolution. We look forward to engaging with the Leader of the House and with domestic committees in developing more detailed proposals in coming weeks. (Paragraph 31)

9.Withdrawal from the EU is arguably the most complex, demanding and important administrative and diplomatic task that the Government has undertaken since the Second World War. Parliament, if it is to undertake its scrutiny role effectively, will need additional resources that are proportionate to the scale of the challenge. We invite the domestic committees of the House to address the question of resourcing as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 32)

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