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Lords examines European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019

9 April 2019


On Monday 8 April, the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill completed its remaining stages in the Lords - committee stage, report stage and third reading - and became a new law as the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019.

This was a private member's bill. A private member's bill is a type of public bill (that affects the public). Private members' bills must go through the same set of procedures as other public bills.

Prior to committee stage, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen (Labour), on behalf of Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Labour) proposed that the normal rules on how Lords business runs should be suspended for this bill, to allow all the remaining stages - report stage and third reading - to be taken on the same day.

Following a debate on the floor of the House, Baroness Hayter's proposal was agreed.

Members discussed a range of subjects, including the possibilities for seeking an Article 50 extension date earlier than 22 May 2019 or later than March 2020, circumstances in the event the European Council proposes an alternative date and the cessation of the bill's provisions on the day the UK plans to leave the European Union.

The Lords made changes to the bill on the dates the House of Commons could debate the bill and allowing a minister other than the prime minister to propose a change to ‘exit day'. These changes were agreed without votes.

There was also a debate on whether Clause 2 of the bill should be removed.

Clause 2 sought to amend a section of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 regarding the use of Statutory Instruments (SIs) to change the date of EU exit day.

A statutory instrument (SI), a type of secondary legislation, is a law created under powers given by an Act of Parliament. It is used to fill in or change the details of Acts (primary legislation).

Under the current rules, an SI to change 'exit day' would be subject to the affirmative procedure, meaning it would need to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it can be made (signed into law) and brought into effect.

Clause 2 would allow for such an SI to be made under the negative procedure, so that it could be brought into effect without the need for an approval debate (unless any member objects).

The decision went to a division (vote), with 280 in favour of keeping Clause 2 and 46 against, and so the clause was not removed.

Following third reading, the bill returned to the House of Commons for its consideration of Lords amendments, which were agreed to.

As both Houses had agreed the text of the bill, the bill received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament (law).

Lords second reading: Thursday 4 April

Lord Rooker (Labour), the bill's sponsor in the Lords and member of the Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, opened the debate on the bill.

Members discussed a wide range of subjects raised by the bill, including the UK's continued participation in the EU customs union, direct rule in Northern Ireland in the event of a ‘no-deal' Brexit and the upcoming European Parliament elections on 23 May.

Lord Callanan (Conservative), minister of state in the Department for Exiting the European Union, responded on behalf of the government.

European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill summary

This bill aims to amend the law in connection with the period for negotiations for withdrawing from the European Union, and to define the procedure for ensuring domestic legislation matches the Article 50 extension.

Further information

Image: Creative Commons