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Vital national interests are at stake in future relationship negotiations with the EU

6 May 2020

The European Scrutiny Committee (ESC) today calls on the Government to:

  • Schedule a debate and vote in Parliament on the EU's mandate for negotiating a future relationship with the UK
  • Address the issues identified in the European Scrutiny Committee's Report as matters of vital national interest to the UK
  • Facilitate essential parliamentary scrutiny throughout the negotiating process
  • Provide regular progress reports on the negotiations, and feedback received from stakeholder consultation

The ESC has consulted Select Committees on the implications of the EU's negotiating mandate for the UK's vital national interests in their policy areas. Today's Report also highlights their concerns. 

Under section 13A of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, if the ESC considers that EU legislation (or proposed EU legislation) – in this case  the Council Decision establishing the EU's negotiating position – “raises a matter of vital national interest”, it can require Ministers to arrange a debate and vote in the Commons within 14 sitting days of the publication of the ESC's Report, on Wednesday 6 May.

Having examined the EU's negotiating position, as well as the Prime Minister's February statement and UK Government's Command Paper setting out its objectives, the Committee has consulted the Select Committees which it considers have an interest in the UK's negotiations with the EU  and decided to put forward a motion for debate. 

Its reasons for doing so are set out in today's report, along with an overview of the key issues highlighted by the Committees in their respective policy areas, and a recommended motion for debate and vote in the Commons. The motion:

“...urges the Government to conduct its negotiations with the European Union with the fullest possible transparency to facilitate essential parliamentary scrutiny; also urges the Government to make regular progress reports on the negotiations, including on stakeholder contributions to the consultation on The Future Relationship with the EU: the UK's Approach to Negotiations, and to address the issues identified by the European Scrutiny Committee in its report…as matters of vital national interest.”

Chair's comments

Commenting on the report, ESC Chairman Sir William Cash said:

“Parliamentary scrutiny and debate are the lifeblood of our democracy, and this Committee has throughout its existence since 1973 insisted on transparency both from national Governments and the European Union. We have also consistently warned of the consequences of decisions being taken by the EU's Council of Ministers, behind closed doors, without any transcript of the proceedings. This is of very specific concern to the United Kingdom, now that we are in a transition period until 31 December 2020, having left the European Union on 31 January.

“Whilst we acknowledge the sensitive nature of the negotiations between the UK and EU regarding the future relationship, we reaffirm that Parliament must maintain its continuing pivotal role in safeguarding the UK's vital national interests throughout the negotiations, both in the House of Commons itself and through its Select Committees.

Further information

Image: Creative Commons