Government's Withdrawal Bill Amendment "Tears the Heart out of Parliament's Meaningful Vote"

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For more details on the amendment read Unlock Democracy’s briefing to MPs on why they should vote against the Government’s amendment (published 08/06/18).


The Government is gearing up for a battle with MPs next week over it’s landmark piece of Brexit legislation, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

Last night the Government tabled its own amendments to the bill. These have come ahead of two days of debate in the House of Commons on the Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th June.

The bill has proven highly controversial throughout its passage. Recently peers were in the media spotlight for amending the bill. Amongst the changes made were restrictions placed on the breadth secondary legislation powers proposed by the government. The bill was also amended to protect EU derived rights and standards, including maintaining existing environmental principles. Peers also voted to strengthen Dominic Grieve MP’s successful amendment in the House of Commons to give Parliament a vote on the final deal.

Notable amongst the Government’s amendments are proposals to water-down provisions in the bill for Parliament to have a meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement. A meaningful vote for Parliament on this deal has already been backed by a majority in the House of Commons, and then strengthened by a majority in the House of Lords.

Reacting to the Government's proposed changes, Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy, commented:

“The Government wants to tear the heart out of Parliament’s meaningful vote. For the greatest constitutional change in the UK’s peacetime history, the Government wants to reduce Parliament to little more than a rubber stamp. MPs have yet another battle on their hands to defend democracy. Unfortunately, such brazen contempt for democracy and our elected representatives has become par for the course from this Government.

“The Government has gone out of its way to frame this amendment as a concession, which is the epitome of cynical spin. It is plain for all to see that the amendment would roll back on very sensible  provisions that, let us not forget, were backed by a majority in the House of Commons and strengthened forcefully by a majority in the House of Lords.

“It’s bewildering why the Government is picking this fight with Parliament. The current framing of the meaningful vote in the bill in no way binds the Government’s hands during the negotiations. Instead, it sets out a clear role for scrutinising the deal that is reached and specifies a role for Parliament if that deal is found not to be satisfactory. This is clearly in line with the principle of parliamentary sovereignty.

“For many that voted leave, ‘taking back control’ was going to mean more power for the people and their elected representatives. I’m afraid they are going to have to reconcile themselves to a future where more power than ever is concentrated in the hands of a few unaccountable Cabinet members.”


Notes to editors:

Unlock Democracy is the UK’s leading campaign for democratic and constitutional reform. Owned and run by its members, Unlock Democracy is creating an inclusive movement to make politics work for everyone.

Unlock Democracy is coordinating an Alliance of over 80 organisations from across civil society that are seeking to amend the Withdrawal Bill to guarantee open and accountable lawmaking, and maintain a high standards UK. More information here:

For more details on the Government's amendment read Unlock Democracy’s briefing to MPs on why they should vote against the Government’s amendment (published 08/06/18).

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