Brexit: parliamentary scrutiny Contents

Chapter 8: ‘Parliamentary diplomacy’

Interparliamentary cooperation

82.Throughout the negotiations, and beyond, Parliament will have an important diplomatic role. National parliaments play an active part in international relations, including through well-established multilateral bodies, such as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe or the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Parliaments also support bilateral relations, such as those established following the 2010 Lancaster House Treaties between the UK and France, which are supported by a Parliamentary Working Group on Bilateral Defence Co-Operation between France and the UK.

83.There is already an active parliamentary dimension to the EU, with a well-established cycle of interparliamentary meetings, including the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC), which meets every six months in the country holding the rotating Presidency of the Council. The European Union Committee is appointed by the House each session to “To represent the House as appropriate in interparliamentary cooperation within the European Union”, and we send delegations to all the major conferences, as well as taking part actively in informal and bilateral meetings.

84.The forthcoming negotiations will of course test the UK’s relationship with the EU collectively, and with the 27 remaining Member States individually. Active diplomacy will be needed at all levels, particularly the parliamentary, to maintain good relations and support the UK’s long-term well-being. Professor Wyatt made this point forcefully:

“During a period in which feelings about the UK on the EU side will be very mixed, and in which relations between HMG and EU Member States may deteriorate at certain stages in the negotiations, there will be a need for some official organ or agency of the UK to be, and to be seen to be, unequivocally committed to a warm as well as close relationship with the EU, and to positive outcomes at the end of the day. The [House of Lords] EU Committee appears to me to be potentially well suited to this role.”51

85.More specifically, there is a particular need for close dialogue between the Westminster Parliament and the European Parliament—the two parliamentary institutions that will, in due course, be called upon formally to approve whatever agreements emerge from the negotiations. It is also conceivable that the national parliaments of the other 27 Member States will have a role in ratification, for instance if the negotiations give rise to a ‘mixed agreement’.

86.Professor Wyatt noted that the European Parliament already had an external face, pointing out that “delegations from the EP and the US Congress meet twice a year, in Europe and the US”52. The two sides have used such meetings to discuss the progress of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and to identify shared priorities. The European Parliament also has an office in London, while the Westminster Parliament has a National Parliament Office based in the European Parliament in Brussels, staffed by officials from the two Houses. Thus some of the structures for dialogue are already in place.

87.The European Union Committee has used these structures over many years to promote dialogue both with the European Parliament, and with other national parliaments across the EU. Since the referendum the level of interest from other national parliaments has, if anything, increased, and we have had informal meetings with colleagues from Germany, France and Ireland. We will also seek in coming weeks to begin a dialogue with the European Parliament, including with its recently appointed representative on Brexit matters, Guy Verhofstadt MEP, and with its Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) Committee. As part of this, we will discuss the options for formalising such dialogue for the duration of the negotiations.

88.In the longer term, Parliament will also wish to consider how best to maintain an interparliamentary dialogue post-withdrawal, given the continuing importance of UK-EU relations. It is possible that some new machinery will be required to support such dialogue, though it is too early to make firm recommendations.


89.Parliament should play an active diplomatic role throughout the Brexit process, and beyond. Dialogue with the European Parliament, and with other national parliaments, will be important in maintaining cordial relations during what will be, at the intergovernmental level, difficult negotiations.

90.The European Union Committee is already tasked with representing the House in interparliamentary relations within the EU, and will accordingly seek in coming weeks to begin a dialogue with the European Parliament, and to agree arrangements for formalising such a dialogue for the duration of the negotiations.

51 Written evidence from Professor Derrick Wyatt (UME0001)

52 Written evidence from Professor Derrick Wyatt (UME0001)

© Parliamentary copyright 2016