UK

MPs vote on Brexit deal: Your questions answered

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A Brexit deal has been negotiated by the UK government and the EU, but MPs still have to agree on it.

We answer a sample of the questions we have received from readers on that process.

What is the difference between the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the "meaningful vote"? - Ian Dearle

For Parliament to approve a draft Brexit deal, MPs by law have to agree on its contents in principle, through a vote on a motion in the House of Commons - also known as the "meaningful vote".

Then, after that, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill - which turns the deal reached with the EU into UK law - needs to be passed.

But since the Commons Speaker refused a government request to hold a "meaningful vote" on its Brexit deal on Monday 21 October, the government plans to bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on Tuesday. It is possible that the text of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill could contain a clause removing the need for a separate "meaningful vote".

If Parliament makes amendments to any part of the agreements with the EU do these have to go back to the EU for agreement? - Pauline Connolly

Parliament does not have the power to make any changes to the withdrawal agreement itself - the legally-binding part of the Brexit deal.

That means an amendment can only go as far as compelling the government to try to negotiate further changes. However, this would completely rely on the EU engaging with the idea of reopening the withdrawal agreement for further revision. There could also be amendments to the bill that aren't directly about the text of the deal.

What happens if the EU refuses a delay? - Mandy Hunt

If the EU refuses a delay then the default position is that the UK will leave the EU at 23:00 on Thursday 31 October. If a deal has been passed by Parliament, and had final approval from the EU, the UK will leave with a deal. If it has not been passed, then the UK would leave without a deal. The only other outcome would be that Parliament votes to revoke Article 50 and cancels Brexit.

Can the EU stop the clock ie no extension given but allow a few days for legislation to be completed? - Ramsay Dunning

The exit date of 31 October is written into both UK and EU law. The only way that date can be changed is by agreeing an extension to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets out what happens when a country decides it wants to leave the EU.

If a deal was very close to being passed into law, the EU could offer a very short extension - sometimes referred to as a "technical extension" - just to finish getting the legislation done. But that's still an extension, even if it only provides a few days leeway.

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Can the UK as a member of the EU veto an extension? - Sandra Wrighton

No, it is up to the other 27 countries to make a decision on an extension, in a meeting of the European Council, at which the UK would not be present. UK law requires the PM to accept a three-month extension to 31 January 2020 automatically, and if another date is offered it would be up to parliament rather than the government to decide whether to accept it.

What sort of conditions might the EU impose in return for granting an extension to Article 50? - Michael-John Knatchbull

The EU could place whatever conditions it likes to the extension.

The last extension, for example, was granted on the condition that the UK participated in the elections to the European Parliament.

Parliament could choose to reject the extension if it didn't like the conditions.

Why can't we revoke Article 50 for one year, make a deal in parliament, then trigger Article 50 again and then go to the EU with the deal? - Richard Harding

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled at the end of 2018 that the UK could revoke Article 50 and stay in the EU, without needing anybody else to agree.

But it also said the decision should be "unequivocal and unconditional", suggesting that the ECJ would take a dim view of any attempt to withdraw an Article 50 notification and then resubmit it again a short time later.

Is there a possibility of a no-confidence vote in the Commons? - H. Moers

A no-confidence vote remains an option. If used, it could result in either an alternative government forming, or an early general election.

If the leader of the opposition - currently Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn - introduces the motion, convention means the government will hold a vote.

It only takes a simple majority to pass a no-confidence motion (ie more MPs voting for it then against).

Even if a no-confidence vote passes, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wouldn't necessarily be forced to resign.

Labour and other opposition parties would then have 14 days to try to form an alternative government.

But if that fails to happen, the rules say that once the two-week period expires, an election is automatically triggered.

If Boris Johnson succeeds in passing the deal and subsequently wins an election, what stops him from implementing a no deal, post transition period? - Avelina Wright

Nothing, if he had a clear majority in the House of Commons to do that. But it would be a slightly different version of no deal than the one for which preparations are being made at the moment.

When we talk about "no deal" at the moment we mean no agreement on how we leave or on the future relationship.

The withdrawal agreement sorts out a number of things, including the Irish border, citizens' rights and the divorce bill.

If the UK came to the end of the transition period without any free trade agreement in place, then there would be no deal on the future relationship. The UK would default to basic WTO rules to govern trade with its nearest neighbours.


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