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A take note debate (a debate on a non-amendable motion) on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is scheduled to take place in the House of Lords on 13 February 2019. A debate on an amendable motion is scheduled to take place in the House of Commons on 14 February 2019. At the time of writing this briefing, the exact wording of the motion for debate in each House is not known.

The scheduling of the Commons debate is related to a commitment made by the Prime Minister on 29 January 2019 when the Commons voted in favour of a backbench amendment supported by the Government to replace the Northern Ireland backstop in the EU withdrawal agreement with “alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border”. The Prime Minister said this gave her a mandate to reopen negotiations with the EU to seek legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement. She said she intended to bring a revised deal back to the Commons for a “second meaningful vote” as soon as possible. However, if the Government had not brought back a revised deal by 13 February 2019, she said she would make a statement on that date and table an amendable motion for debate the next day. This date is a self-imposed deadline, not a statutory one under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (EUWA). The Prime Minister did not say anything explicitly about holding a debate in the Lords at the same time, but the Leader of the House of Lords had already indicated that the Lords would have the opportunity to consider the outcome of the votes held in the Commons on 29 January 2019.

Mrs May met Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, on 7 February 2019 for what they described as “robust but constructive talks”. Mrs May outlined various options for achieving legally binding changes to the terms of the backstop to address Parliament’s concerns. President Juncker said that the EU would not reopen the withdrawal agreement, but remained open to adding wording to the political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and the EU. Further talks between the two sides are ongoing, and Mrs May and President Juncker have agreed to meet again before the end of February to take stock of these discussions.

This House of Lords Library Briefing updates an earlier briefing published on 31 January 2019 which detailed debates held in the Lords and Commons under section 13 of the EUWA on 28 and 29 January 2019, and the role of the House of Lords in the next steps in the Brexit process. This new briefing repeats the content of the earlier briefing, with the addition of new material to explain the context of the scheduling of the forthcoming debates in both Houses and to provide an update on recent developments in the Brexit negotiations since 31 January 2019.

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