Government last year agreed that there would be a parliamentary vote on whether to accept the deal, and there would also be legislation – first two are likely to be the biggest hurdles. If and when deal is agreed, Motion in support of the agreement needs to be passed, will go into what that will look like in a moment, there will then need to be legislation to implement the withdrawal bill. Once that has been passed, the treaty containing the withdrawal agreement will go through the normal process for ratification – that should be straightforward, but it is possible for the Commons to pass a motion to not ratify (seems unlikely, but might be something people could do to make a point)
To understand how this will pan out, you need to understand a bit about the current make-up of parliament and views of MPs – this is obviously a bit of a simplification, the Times identified 14 Brexit factions last month, I think this are probably the most crucial broad groups.
Don’t fully agree with this analysis – actually most remain Conservatives would probably vote for quite a hard Brexit if it meant getting a deal, but it is very difficult to agree something that would have parliamentary support.
Most important step in parliament then is the motion on whether to accept the agreement negotiated by government and EU. Govt has pretty much always said there would be a vote, but process was formalised in the EU Withdrawal Act. Have to get a majority to vote in favour. Motion will be amendable, so MPs may choose this point to give instructions to renegotiate – but not totally clear what substantive amendment could pass – if it does likely to be on the soft Brexit side
If you’re wondering about these grey dots, these are the MPs who for various reasons are now sitting as independents – these basically break down along party lines, so should balance out
The Withdrawal Act also set out the process for what happens if parliament does vote against the deal. Within 21 days the government must make a statement setting out how it intends to proceed with EU negotiations – there will then be a debate on that statement with a non-binding vote. Some speculation that the first motion would be voted down and would then be brought back. The government can then table further motions, but you can see from a political view why it would be difficult to bring back a motion that has been voted down, and because it is an agreement negotiated with the EU they won’t have much room for manoeuvre – normally you get things through parliament by offering concessions, but you can’t really make concessions unless you renegotiate – so getting through on a second vote could be tricky.
Withdrawal bill – 494 amendments at Commons Committee Stage and 477 amendments at Lords Committee Stage, if you don’t normally follow parliament that closely, that’s a lot – every chance something similar will happen here, and whoever is on the losing side of the motion will use to play games. However, probably won’t stop it going through – bigger threat might be if an amendment is passed which isn’t consistent with the withdrawal agreement, you would think that shouldn’t be possible, but hard to know at the moment.
If nothing has been agreed by 21 January, the government has to make a statement on what they intend to do – similar to those issued if they lose the vote on the motion – which was basically put in place to ensure there would be a vote on ‘no deal’
Over the summer I read a lot of coverage which said that because there are a majority of MPs who would vote against no deal, that no deal won’t happen. It’s certainly true that most MPs don’t want No Deal to happen, but they will never actually be voting on that question, not even really when it comes to the meaningful vote, and even if they were able to vote against no deal it wouldn’t matter because they would still have to approve a specific agreement. If they don’t do so in time, we will move into a no deal scenario, regardless of how many MPs don’t want us to.
So if we get past the meaningful vote, and we get to February what prospect is there, as some have suggested, that a last minute deal will be agreed to avoid a no deal scenario. There are some questions about whether that could be negotiated, but worth remembering that the political difficulties I’ve discussed will largely still be true – unless opposition parties can be persuaded that a vote is ‘deal or no deal’ and persuaded to avert no deal – something which may still not be in their political interest. Some suggestion that the government intend to leave the vote as late as possible. Certainly true that the later you hold the vote the more likely it is to get through parliament, as it becomes a clearer deal or no deal vote – but by no means guaranteed, and it means an increased risk of being more of a cliff edge. Also by this point the level of uncertainty might in itself be undesirable – if you’re a French company expecting a shipment from a UK supplier on Monday, is it acceptable for you not to know what paperwork you’ll have to fill out until Friday?
To some extent I think the most important question will be what do the politics look like – would the public mood be such that Labour fear getting blamed for no deal. At the moment I think that calculation would be no, and that there’s an expectation the government would be blamed for any fallout, but if you look at where we are that could change by the New Year.
• Chris Walker
Parliamentary lead, NCVO
• Ben Westerman
Brexit lead, NCVO
ABOUT THE WEBINAR
• 30 minute presentation
• 15 minutes Q&A
Please type your questions into the questions
panel at any time (at the bottom of your
• Please complete the short follow-up survey
upon exiting the webinar.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST LIKELY
OUTCOME OF BREXIT?
WHAT IS THE CURRENT PROPOSAL?
• Chequers white paper – a ‘pragmatic Brexit’
• Economic partnership
• Future relationship
WHAT ARE THE CONTENTIOUS BITS?
• Free trade area with a ‘common rule book’
• Facilitated customs arrangement
• Accepting ECJ rulings
• Looser relationship on services
• Future immigration system?
• ‘Allow citizens to travel freely, without a visa,
for tourism and temporary business activities’
• Rights of EU nationals remain uncertain.
REACTION – UK
• Major government upheaval – 10 resignations
• ‘Brexit in name only’
• ERG customs bill amendments
• White paper ‘in tatters’
REACTION – EU
• Withdrawal agreement ‘80% complete’
• Commitment to the Four Freedoms
• ‘Preparedness paper’
• Is the white paper in the EU’s interest?
• High alignment
• Low alignment or Canada + +
• No deal or WTO Brexit
• A ‘European fudge’?
WHAT’S LEFT TO BE SETTLED?
• 20% of withdrawal
• EU citizens’ rights
• Will parliament pass any deal?
• Second referendum?
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR CHARITIES?
• Treasury to underwrite ESF
• No deal funding pledge
• Shared prosperity fund
• EU citizens’ rights
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR CHARITIES?
• Growing need
• Income problems
• Trouble finding staff
• Difficulty in policy making
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR CHARITIES?
‘There is high risk that the government will not
use Brexit to support the work of the charity
sector based on current policy statements. This
means that charities will be left with all of the
costs of Brexit and none of the opportunities’
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST
ISSUE FOR YOUR ORGANISATION ARISING
WHAT DO THE GOVERNMENT HAVE TO
Agree a deal
Have a motion agreeing to the
deal passed in the House of
Pass legislation to
WHICH GROUPS IN PARLIAMENT WILL
• Government has to agree something with the
• European Research Group (up to 80 Tory MPs,
much smaller core)
• Pro-remain Tory rebels (between 1 and 15
depending on issue)
• Labour leadership (priority is bringing down
• Labour soft Brexiteers (potentially significant
but will be cautious)
• Can’t be too soft for ERG
• Can’t be too hard for
• Opposition may vote
PARLIAMENTARY MOTION ON THE DEAL
• When a deal has been agreed, the government
will put forward a motion on the deal
• Has to secure Commons approval
• Will be amendable
• Will be considered, but not voted on in the
• Narrow Conservative + DUP majority
• 7 Con/DUP rebels needed to vote down deal
• In practice, government will probably need
opposition votes to pass a deal
WHAT IF PARLIAMENT SAYS NO?
• Government will have to issue a statement
setting out revised approach
• There will be a debate on the statement
• Government could table further motions
EU (WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT) BILL
• Will only be introduced
if parliament approves
• Implements the
until end of 2020
• Amendable, so
delaying tactics could
• Debate on a neutral motion eg that this House
has considered the government’s approach to
exiting the EU
• Could lose, but not binding
• Possible trigger for political crisis
HAS YOUR ORGANISATION DONE ANY
PLANNING FOR NO DEAL?
Institute for Government report on potential scenarios
UK in a Changing Europe report on the impact of no deal
Charity Finance Group cost benefit analysis of Brexit for charities
IPPR report on post-Brexit charity workforce
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when you exit the webinar.
Get in touch if you’d like us to provide any advice/present
to your organisation.
020 7520 3168
020 7520 3167