There has been much media coverage recently of the involvement of both the United Kingdom (UK) and Scottish Parliaments in the process of the UK leaving the European Union (EU).
What has been the recent involvement of the two Parliaments in the “Brexit” process?
The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill confers on the Prime Minister the power under Article 50 to notify the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU. The Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday 8th February 2017, and has now moved to the House of Lords, where it is to be debated on Monday 20th February.
The Bill must be considered by the Lords at a Committee and Report Stage, before passing its third reading there and being returned to the Commons with any amendments considered by MPs. Subject to approval, the Bill will then be sent for Royal Assent, allowing the notification of Article 50 to be made.
The text of the Bill can be found, in its present form, here.
On Tuesday 7th February, the Scottish Government tabled a debate on the invoking of Article 50.
Despite the fact that the Supreme Court in the Miller case decided that there was no legal requirement for the Scottish Parliament to give its consent to the invoking of Article 50, the Scottish Parliament was asked to debate and vote on a Scottish Government motion that the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill should not proceed. The Scottish Government stated that its reason for tabling the motion was that the UK Government has set out no provision for effective consultation with the devolved administrations on reaching an agreed UK approach to the negotiations for the UK’s departure from the EU.
Whilst the result of the debate, in which the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of the Scottish Government’s motion by 90 to 34, has no more effect than to express the view of the elected representatives in a devolved legislature, the message from the Scottish Parliament is clear.
Assuming that the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill receives Royal Assent, the Prime Minister will notify the EU of the UK’s intention to leave. At that stage, the formal negotiation process between the UK Government and the EU will begin.
Much of the wording of Article 50 is unspecific. It is, however, clear that the UK Government’s negotiators will have two years from the date of the notification to make the necessary arrangements for the UK to leave the EU. If such negotiations are not carried out within that period, the UK will leave the EU without the necessary arrangements in place, unless they are extended by unanimous agreement by the remaining EU member states.
The UK Government has committed in its White Paper to examine any proposals brought forward by the devolved administrations as regards Brexit, in addition to discussions undertaken through the Joint Ministerial Committee. The Scottish Government has already set out its proposals. It remains to be seen what final aims the UK Government will set out to achieve, having examined such proposals.