What Will Happen If Parliament Rejects The Withdrawal Agreement?



Join us at the Conservative Party Conference next week! 

Business has made the case for certainty and clarity as we leave the EU. Equally, civil society across the UK also needs that certainty to be able to plan effectively going forward. 

This event will bring together experts and relevant stakeholders who have been working on Brexit legislation across the nations and regions of the UK. They will assess what challenges, threats and opportunities lie ahead for UK civil society in a post-Brexit world. You do not need a conference pass to attend the event, it’s free and open to all. More information & registration here

Default positions

It is looking clearer than ever that there is no Commons majority for any of the possible versions of a UK/EU27 Brexit deal: whether based on Chequers, Norway, Canada, or anything else. Attention is, therefore, moving towards what the default position will be if every proposal put forward is voted down.

There are basically two possibilities. One view is that the referendum result, confirmed by Parliament when it voted to trigger Article 50, has already taken the decision for the UK to leave the EU on 29th March next year. Whether there is a deal or not won’t affect that decision. Brexit will simply go ahead in the event of there being no deal. No deal would also imply no 2019-20 transition period. The Government has now published its full set of “technical notices” for no deal.

The other possibility is that the Commons (and according to the EU Withdrawal Act, the choice is for the Commons and not also the Lords) will draw back from that brink and establish a new process for coming to a decision. The most obvious such new process would be a new referendum, on the basis that Parliament can’t decide and so it’s up to the people. In those circumstances, the options might well be simply No Deal Brexit versus Remain, although ofcourse it could be more complicated.

That is why the resolution adopted by Labour Party Conference this week was significant. A ‘People’s Vote’ referendum is now a real possibility, and the latest move in that direction by Labour makes it a bit more likely than it looked last week.

There is, however, a third possibility, discussed less often. This is for the House of Commons to initially reject a deal proposed by the Government. By ‘deal’ is meant the combination of withdrawal (including transition) agreement, plus framework agreement outlining the future UK/EU relationship – the EU Withdrawal Act requires both to be voted on together in a single resolution. But after that, there could be bargaining with groups of MPs who might be persuaded to change their vote and back the Government in return for some additional promises to be combined with the deal – another round of extra money for Northern Ireland perhaps?

The Alliance at Labour Party Conference

Thanks to everyone who came to our fringe event at the Labour Party Conference this week. Our brilliant panel discussed the implications Brexit will have on Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland- who all faces unique challenges as a result of the referendum. You can read more about the discussion here. 


The Conservative Party Conference starts on Sunday, September 30 and ends with Theresa May’s speech on Wednesday, October 3.

The SNP Party Conference is from 7-9 October. 

Parliament is back on Tuesday, October 9. With reports that the Cabinet has agreed  new arrangements for immigration post-Brexit, we may soon see the publication of the promised Immigration Bill.

Wednesday 10 October the Procedure Committee takes oral evidence from Ministers at the Department for Exiting the European Union on the Government’s White Paper 'Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement' (Cm 9674), published on 24 July, and procedure for the prospective European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. We’ll be watching closely (so you don’t have to). 

The next EU heads of government meeting is on Wednesday, 17 October and Thursday, 18 October, which may well prove to be a crunch event for the negotiations.

The next People’s Vote march is on Saturday, 20 October. 

Thursday, October 18- North-East England voluntary sector conference on Brexit, in Sunderland. Details here

The fact that Philip Hammond has moved the Budget forward to 29 October confirms that November could be the critical month for negotiations.

A special Brexit EU heads of government meeting has been pencilled in for Saturday November 17 and Sunday November 18.


NewsletterSamuel Ellis