Further Article 50 Discussions with the EU

On 27 February 2019, the House of Lords is due to debate the Government’s further discussions with the EU under article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This follows a commitment made by the Prime Minister on 12 February 2019 that, if by 26 February 2019 the Government had not secured a majority in the House of Commons in a second ‘meaningful vote’, she would make a further statement in the Commons on 26 February 2019, and a debate on an amendable motion would take place in the Commons on 27 February 2019. At the time of writing this briefing, the exact wording of the motion for debate in each House is not known.

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On 29 January 2019, the Commons voted by a majority of 16 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. On 14 February 2019, the Commons defeated by a majority of 45 a Government motion reiterating support for the approach to leaving the EU expressed in the 29 January resolution. The abstention of Conservative MPs who objected to wording in that resolution that rejected leaving the EU with no deal contributed to that defeat. However, the Prime Minister said she would continue to work to secure changes to the backstop on the basis of the 29 January resolution as it remained “Parliament’s only positive expression of its desired means to achieve our exit from the EU”.

Discussions with the EU have been ongoing, with the Prime Minister and President Juncker meeting most recently on 20 February 2019. Following the meeting the Prime Minister and President Juncker issued a joint statement in which they said that their meeting had been constructive, and they urged their respective teams to continue to explore options in a positive spirit. They agreed to meet again before the end of February.

On 13 February 2019, the Lords voted by a majority of 86 in favour of a Labour motion calling on the Government to take all steps necessary to ensure that the UK did not leave the EU on 29 March 2019 without an agreement ratified by both Houses and to ensure that a second ‘meaningful vote’ and corresponding take-note debate in the Lords took place before the end of February 2019.

This House of Lords Library Briefing updates an earlier briefing published in preparation for the Lords’ take-note debate on the Brexit negotiations held on 13 February 2019. This new briefing repeats the content of the earlier briefing, with the addition of new material to provide an update on recent developments since 8 February 2019 and recent remarks made by ministers about the Lords’ role in the next steps in the process.

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