The House of Lords European Union Committee today issued a report — “Scrutinising Brexit: The Role of Parliament” (Session 2016-17 HL Paper 33) — calling for effective parliamentary scrutiny of all aspects of the UK’s Brexit negotiations with the EU.
The Committee commented (at para 5):
The forthcoming negotiations are both immeasurably more important and complex [than those leading to the February 2016 “New Settlement”], and fundamentally different in nature. It is inconceivable that they should be conducted without effective parliamentary oversight. Indeed, in a parliamentary democracy we believe it is the right and duty of Parliament to ensure that the negotiations are scrutinised effectively at every stage.
The Committee made several specific recommendations and observations, including that:
- Parliament’s role will be “critical” to the success of negotiations, as ratification by Parliament of any agreement will ultimately be required (para 7);
- “[T]he substance of what is under discussion, rather than the formal stage in the withdrawal process, should be reflected in an appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny”, which should take place at “all stages”, including informal discussions prior to an Article 50 notice, formal negotiations under Article 50 and further negotiations after Brexit (para 18);
- The European Union Committee be charged with scrutinising the negotiations (para 31); and
- Sufficient additional resources be provided to Parliament properly to scrutinise the negotiations, because “[w]ithdrawal from the EU is arguably the most complex, demanding and important administrative and diplomatic task that the Government has undertaken since the Second World War” (para 32).
The Committee also acknowledged the need for secrecy over elements of the negotiations, stating that scrutiny could “strike an appropriate balance between transparency and confidentiality, while achieving the overarching objective of holding the Government effectively to account” (para 22).
Several panellists at Brick Court’s Brexit and the UK Constitution panel discussion last night expressed similar views, both about the need for full Parliamentary scrutiny of the UK’s Brexit negotiations and balancing any need for secrecy with sufficient transparency, although views differed on the likelihood of secrecy being successfully maintained in a negotiation with 27 other EU Member States and the EU institutions.
The Report forms part of the Committee’s ongoing inquiry into the EU exit process (see the Committee’s homepage).