This week the government tabled twelve hours to debate fifteen amendments made by the House of Lords to the European Union withdrawal bill. In a stunning attempt to devalue bicameral ideals, May and her working majority of 14 tasted success in every round, eventually bowing out on 15 for 15.
Former Labour leadership contestant Chuka Umunna was not best pleased with the idea of two six-hour sessions, accusing Mrs May of “running scared of the Commons” in the hope that they do not defeat her over the EEA and Customs Unions by “tabling only twelve hours of debate”.
It was something of a turbulent couple of days for Labour, as 75 backbenchers defied party instructions to abstain by voting in favour of the European Economic Area, or EEA. A further 15 insubordinates voted against the EEA, including recently resigned Laura Smith, staunch remainer turned MP for staunch leavers Crewe and Nantwich.
It’s over now though, so here’s a closer look at each of the fifteen Amendments and how the Commons voted:
> Amendment 19 – Meaningful vote: Government win 324 – 298
Had this amendment passed, it would have guaranteed a meaningful final vote on the Brexit deal by allowing the Commons to decide which course of action to take should Parliament reject the deal come December.
It appears May won rebels over via concession, eventually agreeing to what Peter Walker described as “the broad thrust of their proposals.”
> Amendment 110 – Sifting committee: Government win 324 – 302
Amendment 110 proposed that a committee scrutinise, by obligation, all ministerial directives used in the amendment of retained EU law.
> Amendment 128 – Further sifting committee: Government win 325 – 304
Analogous to Amendment 110, if enacted this would have obliged the sifting of secondary legislation in an effort to certify more robust procedures for consent.
> Linked amendments 37, 39 + 125 – No fixed exit date
Amendment 37: Government win 326 – 301
Amendment 39: Government win 324 – 302
Amendment 125: Government win 328 – 297
The government previously amended the bill to establish March 29th, 2019 as the definitive exit date. The Lords altered this to try and ensure any set date was subject to parliamentary approval.
> Amendment 52 – Ability to challenge retained EU law: Government win 326 – 301
Passing Amendment 52 would have permitted ministers to use directives in deciding who may and may not challenge the validity of EU laws retained post-Brexit.
> Linked amendments 10, 43 + 45 – Henry VIII powers
Amendment 10: Government win 320 – 305
Amendment 43: Government win 322 – 306
Amendment 45: Government win 317 – 306
These amendments would restrict minister’s abilities to amend retained EU law under secondary legislation by adjusting the wording, so it can only take place if necessary, instead of whenever a minister deems it appropriate.
> Amendment 20 – Parliamentary approval for negotiations: Government win 321 – 305
Amendment 20 proposed that before negotiations on phase two begin, the government must first seek parliamentary approval.
> Amendment 25 – Northern Ireland: Government win
MPs nodded through government amendments to the Lords amendment, proposing that the bar on border charges refer exclusively to physical infrastructure. The Lords had proposed that in order for changes to be made to Irish border arrangements, the UK and Irish governments had to first be in agreement.
> Amendment 51 – The European Economic Area: Government win 327 – 126
Passing would have obliged the government to prioritise staying in the European Economic Area, otherwise known as the Norway option. Iceland and Liechtenstein are also of a similar position.
> Labour amendment – Access to the internal market: Government win 322 – 240
The oppositions amendment would have replaced amendment 51 on the EEA. It stated the objective of negotiations should be “to ensure the United Kingdom has full access to the internal market of the European Union, underpinned by shared institutions and regulations, with no new impediments to trade and common rights, standards and protections as a minimum.”
> Amendment 1 – Customs union: Government win 326 – 296
Passing would have prevented the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act should the government fail to outline plans to negotiate a continued customs union after Brexit.
> Amendment 5 – Charter of fundamental rights: Government win 321 – 301
Passing would have seen the EU’s charter of fundamental rights transferred into domestic law.
> Amendment 53 – Compliance with EU principles: Government win 320 – 297
Amendment 53 would have guaranteed the right of challenge to a domestic law should it fail to comply with principles set out by the ECJ.
> Amendment 4 – Enhanced scrutiny: Government win 318 – 301
Amendment to prevent the modification of EU law by secondary legislation without the approval of parliament. May have affected areas such as health and safety and environmental standards.
> Amendment 3 – Environmental protections: Government win 320 – 296
Proposed that EU environmental protections remained in place, overseen by a separate body to enforce compliance.