​All Brexit talks should face UK Parliament scrutiny, Lords say

31 January 2017 9:56am

22 July 2016. By Lewis Crofts.

UK lawmakers should scrutinize “all aspects” of formal and informal negotiations to take the UK out of the EU, a House of Lords committee has said.

The peers said talks on a new trade deal with the remaining 27 member states can run in parallel to negotiations to leave the bloc, contradicting the prevailing view in Brussels.

When David Cameron stepped down as UK prime minister in June, he passed the decision on activating exit talks to his successor. This raised the question of whether activating Article 50 — the exit process spelled out in the Lisbon Treaty — is a decision for the premier or for Parliament.

A committee report from the House of Lords today concluded that “Parliament’s scrutiny of the withdrawal negotiations is vital to ensure an ‘audit trail’ for future generations.”

“Scrutiny must cover informal discussions, as well as negotiations on withdrawal and on a new relationship,” the upper chamber committee said in a statement.

The peers say the House of Lords should have a “distinct role” in the oversight process.

Government ministers have sought to assure lawmakers that they will be involved in crafting the UK’s new relationship with Europe, but have stopped short of guaranteeing the assembly will have to pass a formal act to trigger an exit.

The High Court in London is currently reviewing litigation over whether the new prime minister, Theresa May, needs a parliamentary act to trigger Article 50, or if she can do it under her own prerogative (see here). A second hearing on the case will be held in October.

The Lords also said “negotiations on a new relationship can be undertaken in parallel to withdrawal negotiations under Article 50.”

This contrasts with the view at the European Commission in Brussels and some national capitals that the UK must conclude its exit process before negotiating a new trade relationship with the bloc.

The wording of Article 50 indicates that an EU state choosing to withdraw must take “account of the framework for its future relationship with the union.”

Brexit Special Report