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Article 50 bill: Amendment on ‘no deal’ scenario

What happens if ‘no deal’ is reached during negotiations? It’s a mystery until we know if Article 50 can be revoked and Parliament gets a vote on it.


Debate on the Article 50 bill by the House of Lords continues tomorrow with a vote on Parliament getting a ‘meaningful vote’ due. If the amendment is successfully passed, the government would require Parliamentary approval on the terms of the withdrawal as well as future relationship with the EU. An important aspect of the amendment is that it also requires the government to get Parliamentary approval to leave the EU without a deal.

Here’s the amendment as proposed by Baroness Hayter:


Parliamentary approval for the outcome of negotiations with the European Union:

  1. The Prime Minister may not conclude an agreement with the European Union under Article 50 (2) of the Treaty on European Union, on the terms of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, without the approval of both Houses of Parliament.
  2. Such approval shall be required before the European Parliament debates and votes on that agreement.
  3. The prior approval of both Houses of Parliament shall also be required in relation to an agreement on the future relationship of the United Kingdom with the European Union.
  4. The prior approval of both Houses of Parliament shall also be required in relation to any decision by the Prime Minister that the United Kingdom shall leave the European Union without an agreement as to the applicable terms.

You can see other amendments due to be debated tomorrow at publications.parliament.uk.

When a similar amendment was considered by MPs, the government said that Parliament would get a vote on whether to accept the final deal the government negotiated with the EU. However, the government made it clear that if Parliament did not approve the deal, the UK would leave the EU with no deal. During that debate, Brexit minister David Jones also said that if no new deal could be negotiated, there would not be a vote because the UK would simply leave without a deal.

The Guardian reports that a spokesperson for Theresa May has confirmed the “take it or leave it” position of the government. However, in the Guardian’s politics live blog, it also reports the spokesperson as not being able to confirm whether Parliament would get a vote in the event that no deal could be negotiated.

The question of whether Parliament gets a vote in a ‘no deal’ scenario has huge significance. It potentially means that Britain leaving the EU without a deal would not be an automatic outcome. We still don’t know if Article 50 is revocable. Legal opinion commissioned by The People’s Challenge suggests that it is revocable and that if Parliament voted against leaving the EU without a deal, Article 50 would be automatically revoked. This is obviously in contrast to the government’s position.

EU law experts say Britain’s “actual withdrawal” needs Parliament’s approval

Even if the amendment isn’t successful, the government could face a legal challenge if it doesn’t give Parliament a vote on what happens if ‘no deal’ can be reached. The legal opinion also suggests that a separate Act of Parliament is needed to actually take the UK out of the EU so it would need approval by MPs and peers anyway.

There is also the possibility of extending negotiations but this is reliant on the other 27 EU countries agreeing to that. Both Parliament and the government will instead be focussed on what it can achieve. That means figuring out what the consequences are of a ‘no deal’ scenario. Resolving the issue of Article 50’s revocability (which, should hopefully be achieved with the Jolyon Maugham’s upcoming court case) and whether Parliamentary approval is needed to take the UK out of the EU without a deal would help.

For now, the consequences of a ‘no deal’ scenario remains a mystery.

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