Commons votes to reject Government's EU Withdrawal Agreement

29 March 2019

Today MPs voted to reject a Government motion which would have approved the Withdrawal Agreement which has been negotiated with the European Union.

After five hours of debate, MPs voted 344 to 286 to reject the motion. This was a majority of 58.

Background

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 states that the House of Commons must approve two documents that have been negotiated between the UK Government and the EU – the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

The House of Commons has debated and rejected these two documents twice in what have come to be known as ‘meaningful votes’. The Speaker of the House has ruled that there cannot be a third ‘meaningful vote’ without substantial changes.

Yesterday, the Government tabled a motion for debate today which asks the House to approve only the Withdrawal Agreement – not the Political Declaration too. The full wording of the motion is as follows:

"That this House notes the European Council Decision of 22 March 2019 taken in agreement with the United Kingdom extending the period under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union, which provides for an extension to the Article 50 period to 22 May 2019 only if the House of Commons approves the Withdrawal Agreement by 29 March 2019; notes that if the House does not do so by that date the Article 50 period will only as a matter of law be extended to 12 April 2019 and that any extension beyond 22 May 2019 would require the UK to bring forward the necessary Day of Poll Order to hold elections to the European Parliament; notes that Article 184 of the Withdrawal Agreement refers to the Political Declaration between the UK and EU agreed on 25 November 2018, but that the EU has stated it remains open to negotiating changes to the Political Declaration; notes that the House is currently undertaking deliberations to identify whether there is a design for the future relationship that commands its support; notes that even should changes be sought to the Political Declaration, leaving the European Union with a deal still requires the Withdrawal Agreement; declares that it wishes to leave the EU with an agreement as soon as possible and does not wish to have a longer extension; therefore approves the Withdrawal Agreement, the Joint Instrument and the Unilateral Declaration laid before the House on 11 March 2019 so that the UK can leave the EU on 22 May 2019; notes that this approval does not by itself meet the requirements of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018; and resolves that it is content to proceed to the next steps of this process, including fulfilling section 13 of this Act."

Amendments

Like other Brexit-related motions in recent months, this motion was amendable, giving MPs from across the House the opportunity to suggest changes to the text. Three amendments were tabled, but none were selected.

Related information

House of Commons Library analysis

The House of Commons Library produces briefing papers to inform MPs and their staff of key issues. The papers contain factual information and a range of opinions on each subject, and aim to be politically impartial.

Image: UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

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