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The House of Lords made a total of 201 amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The Bill returned to the Commons for consideration of Lords amendments on 12 and 13 June 2018. The Commons agreed to all the Government amendments made to the Bill in the Lords.

Of the 15 amendments (or groups of amendments) which the House of Lords made to the Bill by defeating the Government, the Commons agreed to keep one (on future interaction with EU law and agencies), and to amend and keep another (on Northern Ireland border arrangements and North-South cooperation). The Commons rejected a further eight amendments and replaced the remaining five with new amendments of its own.

This Briefing has been written in advance of the Bill’s return to the House of Lords on 18 June 2018 for the Lords to consider the Commons amendments. It does not summarise the whole debate but seeks to give an overview of the new provisions added to the Bill through amendments made in lieu and the amendments made to the clause on Northern Ireland and North-South cooperation.

In summary:

  • Lords amendments on the issue of a customs union were disagreed by the Commons and replaced by a Government amendment in lieu. The Government would have to make a written statement before 31 October 2018. This would outline the steps it had taken in negotiation with the EU to seek to negotiate a customs arrangement (as opposed to a customs union) with the EU, as part of its future relationship. Such a statement would also no longer be a prerequisite for the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972.
  • The Commons agreed a Government amendment in lieu on environmental protections. This provided that the Government would publish a draft bill that included a set of environmental principles (outlined in the amendment). Ministers would have to have regard to these (in circumstances to be set out in the bill). It would also establish a public body to take enforcement action which could include legal action if necessary.
  • The Commons agreed a Government amendment in lieu on the reunification of refugee families. This would require the Government to seek to negotiate a reciprocal agreement with the EU on the reunification of unaccompanied children (who had made an application for international protection) with relatives in the UK or an EU member state. The original Lords amendment made reference to preserving ‘specified effects’ of the EU’s ‘Dublin III’ regulation, which makes provision for EU member states on this issue.
  • The Commons agreed Government amendments to provisions added in the Lords which would restrict specified powers under the Bill from making certain changes to the border arrangements in Northern Ireland. The Government had previously argued that the original amendment was not drafted in a legally appropriate way and its amendments sought to address this.
  • The Commons agreed a government amendment in lieu on parliamentary approval of negotiations (a ‘meaningful vote’) which would give the Commons a veto over the withdrawal agreement, but would remove the power for Parliament to issue binding directions to the Government if no deal was agreed. Instead, if the Commons did not pass a resolution approving the withdrawal agreement and framework for the future relationship, the Government would have to make a statement on its proposed next steps in relation to Article 50 negotiations within 28 days.
  • The general bar on bringing legal action on the grounds of failure to comply with the general principles of EU law was reinstated (as the Commons disagreed to the Lords amendment which had removed it). However, the Commons agreed to a government amendment in lieu which would allow claims to be brought in specified circumstances for three years from exit day (previous versions of the Bill had only provided for a shorter time limit of three months from exit day).

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