What next for the EU (Withdrawal) Bill
Now that more than 64 hours of the Committee stage for the WithdrawalBill is over, the Repeal Bill Alliance looks at what’s ahead for the bill in 2018. During Committee stage, we have been keeping a close eye on the concessions made by the Government, click here for an overview.
One of the things worth noting ahead of Report stage (scheduled for 16th and 17th January), is Keir Starmer’s (Shadow Brexit secretary) comments about Labour forcing a vote on maintaining the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, during Report. While the Government managed to avoid a rebellion over the Charter at Committee stage, whether they face a defeat in January remains to be seen. The Alliance warned in November just how damaging it will be to lose the Charter as EU law is transferred to UK law.
As many will remember, the Government conceded to publish a “rights-by-rights analysis” of where Charter rights can be found in UK law, after MPs across the Chamber voiced concerns about its loss after Brexit. The Government’s analysis have received damning comments from Schona Jolly QC (human rights and equalities lawyer), who said in the Guardian that the analysis “fails to tackle the legal reality that abandoning the charter indeed does remove rights that UK citizens currently enjoy and adds to the complexity, confusion and uncertainty surrounding the basis to protect and enforce substantive rights post-Brexit”. This suggest all the more reason for Alliance members to keep pushing for maintaining the Charter during Report.
House of Commons: Report Stage & Third Reading
As Committee stage is finished, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill will be reprinted and will return to the floor of the House of Commons for its report stage, where the amended Bill can be debated and further amendments proposed. The dates for Report Stage and Third Reading are 16th and 17th January.
Report stage gives MPs an opportunity, on the floor of the House, to consider further amendments (proposals for change) to a Bill which has been examined in committee.
All MPs can suggest amendments to the Bill or new clauses (parts) they think should be added. The deadline for amendments/new clauses is two sitting days before report stage consideration. The selection and grouping of amendments is by the Speaker and the criteria for selection is generally stricter than at committee stage - for example, amendments that have been debated fully at committee stage will not usually be selected for consideration at report stage - so a Member can't just persist with the same amendment and try to get it revisited. Report stage is normally followed immediately by debate on the Bill's third reading.
Third reading is the final chance for the Commons to debate the contents of a Bill. It usually takes place immediately after report stage as the next item of business on the same day. Debate on the Bill is usually short, and limited to what is actually in the Bill, rather than, as at second reading, what might have been included. Amendments (proposals for change) cannot be made to a Bill at third reading in the Commons. At the end of the debate, the House decides (votes on) whether to approve the third reading of the Bill.
House of Lords: EU (Withdrawal) Bill Timetable
First Reading: End of January - currently suggested to be 18th January.
Second Reading: End January - rumoured 29th and 30th or 30th and 31st January.
Amendments may be tabled at any stage after second reading and can be tabled during recess. Late tabling while allowed, is not considered proper.
Committee Stage: expected to start after February recess, from Tuesday February 20th and over 4 or 5 weeks.
Report Stage could then possibly be the end of March or after Easter recess