Briefing: A meaningful Vote on the Withdrawal Agreement

A meaningful vote for Parliament was originally added to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill during Committee Stage in the House of Commons. The Government consistently opposed MPs being given a formal role on the withdrawal agreement. This is a deal which will bring into effect the single greatest constitutional change that the UK has undertaken in peacetime history. This is a deal which will have long-lasting implications for our policy at home and relationships abroad for decades to come.

MPs insisted on the principle of a meaningful vote and backed Dominic Grieve’s amendment to guarantee Parliament a vote on the withdrawal agreement.

This was then strengthened by Viscount Hailsham’s amendment in the House of Lords. This amendment strengthens democratic accountability of the executive and the power of Parliament in a number of ways:

  • It creates a legal framework for the parliamentary process of approving the withdrawal agreement.

  • It gives Parliament the power to issue a legally binding direction to the Government on the negotiations if either the withdrawal agreement resolution is rejected OR the Government fails to reach a deal by exit day.

This amendment does not bind the Government’s hands during the negotiations. 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.

Now, the Government is seeking to tear the heart out of Parliament’s meaningful vote.