UK will not ratify Brexit agreement until MPs have voted on it

Minister gives assurance during debate on EU withdrawal

Anti-Brexit protesters  outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Wednesday. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Anti-Brexit protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Wednesday. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

 

The British government does not expect to ratify an agreement to withdraw from the European Union until after parliament has voted on it, a Brexit minister has told the House of Commons.

Speaking during a debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill, Steve Baker said MPs and peers would have their say before the government signs off on a Brexit deal.

“Both houses will have meaningful votes on whether to accept the agreement. And it is my expectation that we would not ratify before that primary legislation has gone through,” he said.

Meaningful vote

Prime minister Theresa May declined to offer a similar assurance last month when she was pressed by MPs on the issue after the House of Commons backed an amendment to give parliament a meaningful vote on the final deal.

The bottom line is that looking ahead, if Brexit doesn’t work for young people in our country in the end it will not be sustainable

Justine Greening, who was sacked as education secretary last week, told MPs that if they failed ensure that Brexit worked for young people, the next generation could undo it.

“I represent a very young constituency here in London. The bottom line is that looking ahead, if Brexit doesn’t work for young people in our country in the end it will not be sustainable. When they take their place here they will seek to improve or undo what we’ve done and make it work for them,” she said.

Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker said this week that the EU was still open to a change of mind in Britain over Brexit, a position endorsed on Wednesday by an aide to French president Emmanuel Macron.

“If tomorrow, or the day after, the United Kingdom decided to change its mind, it’s clear that we would look at this with kindness. But it’s not up to us if the United Kingdom wants to change its mind,” the aide said.

Mr Juncker said on Wednesday that, even if Britain proceeds with Brexit, it could seek to rejoin using article 49 of the EU treaty. Any application to join the EU under article 49 would require the unanimous approval of all member states.

New barriers to trade

Brexit secretary David Davis has described Britain’s ideal free trade agreement with the EU after Brexit as “Canada-plus-plus-plus”, an enhanced version of the agreement between the EU and Canada.

Christopher Bondy, Canada’s senior counsel during its trade negotiations with the EU, told the Commons Brexit Committee on Wednesday that such a deal would still involve building new barriers to trade and compared Brexit to blowing up a bridge.

“A free trade agreement is like two parties are on either side of a river and are considering building a bridge across that river because they think it will be in their economic benefit,” he said.

“What the UK situation with the EU right now is that that bridge has been there for 45 years. Communities have been built up on either side of it. There are buildings on the bridge. And you are deciding what part of it you want to blow up without bankrupting yourself.” 

Among the amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill defeated by MPs on Wednesday was one which would have written into it the text of the agreement on Northern Ireland reached between Britain and the EU last month.

Labour’s Chris Leslie said the agreement meant all things to all people but argued that including it in the Bill would demonstrate the British government’s good faith.

“If the government really mean to commit to there being no hard border, they should enshrine that commitment in the Bill. That is the test for the government – it is what they have to prove if they really believe that this was not just some mealy-mouthed commitment to get them through a particular difficulty in the short term,” he said.