Brexit could strengthen Parliament or weaken it. This applies to its standing in relation to both the government and the public. Given the promise that leaving the EU means ‘taking back control’, the way in which Parliament manages the Brexit process and its post-Brexit role will be among the criteria for judging whether the UK ‘makes a success of it’.
In one scenario, the UK emerges into a post-Brexit political landscape with the executive empowered, not Parliament. Parliament is not seen by either the government or the public to have made much positive difference to the nature of Brexit or the public’s understanding of or engagement with the process. In the other scenario, Parliament seizes the opportunity - arguably, the mandate - arising from the EU referendum to assert its role as a key site for information-gathering and dissemination, policy generation, consensus-building and decision-making.
What we are doing
We are researching and reporting on Parliament’s handling of Brexit - across its scrutiny of government, its legislative work, and its role in the international treaty-making and -unmaking that will be involved. The EU (Withdrawal) Act and associated legislation are a particular focus of our work, building on our track record of detailed research on delegated legislation and its scrutiny.
We are also looking ahead to Parliament in the post-Brexit era, identifying structures and procedures that will need to change, and capabilities and resources that may need to be different. Among other issues, we are looking at the role Parliament might play in the UK’s post-Brexit trade agreements and other treaties.
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‘Exit day’ in UK law will need to be changed by Statutory Instrument in the last week of March, if the UK and EU agree an extension to the Article 50 period beyond its default 29 March expiry date.
In the run-up to the UK’s exit from the EU on 29 March 2019 we will be tracking the progress made by government and Parliament in preparing the statute book for exit day. Our analysis draws on parliamentary data and our own Statutory Instrument Tracker which we built several years ago to support our research on delegated legislation.
The roles occupied by members of The Independent Group - particularly on select committees, where they retain a number of important posts and command two and a half times as many seats as the Liberal Democrats – could give them more influence than their small, non-party status might normally be expected to accord them.
In the House of Commons’ first debate today on potential new trade deals, two things are worth watching out for: the nature of the occasion itself; and any further information it elicits from the government about the process for making new trade agreements beyond the debate itself.
The cancellation of this week’s House of Commons recess provided the government with an extra few days to hold debates on affirmative Brexit SIs. But the low number of debates makes it a wasted opportunity. The government can get its Brexit SIs into force by 29 March, but probably only at the expense of what limited scrutiny already takes place for SIs.