Theresa May has previously supported a parliamentary vote on the government’s negotiating position with the EU

Theresa May was in favour of MPs voting to approve Government positions prior to negotiations with the EU, the Open Britain campaign has learnt. This is despite the fact that the government’s position today is not to allow a parliamentary vote on the government’s negotiating objectives before it triggers Article 50.

 

When called on by Labour and others to hold a vote, Downing Street only said: "The Government is focused on delivering on Brexit. We have always been clear that Parliament has an important role to play, and this motion reflects that."

The Prime Minister said in 2008: “We should have a statutory scrutiny reserve so that Ministers would have to gain parliamentary approval before negotiations in the Council of Ministers.”

She added: “The scrutiny reserve should be put on a statutory basis so that Ministers are required to come to the Committee before negotiations at the European Council and cannot override it… my proposal would work along similar lines to the Danish model… The system would also need to be backed by clear sanctions so that if the Minister broke the reserve—if he or she came to an agreement with the Committee and went on to negotiate a different position—there could be some kind of formal censure.”

The ’Danish model’ to which she referred would require the government to obtain a parliamentary majority behind its negotiating position; to keep parliament fully informed about negotiations; and to obtain a new mandate if negotiations stray from the details originally put to parliament.

Commenting for the Open Britain campaign, Phil Wilson MP said:

“The Government’s negotiating hand would be strengthened if they had clear plans backed by a strong Parliamentary mandate.

“This is something the Prime Minister used to support. I hope Ministers will now listen to MPs on all sides and give Parliament a vote on the terms of their Brexit negotiations.”

Notes:

Speaking in the House of Commons in 2008, Theresa May said:

“The Government's approach, which was set out correctly by my right hon. Friend, is not in itself a reason for us not to do what we can with the systems of this House in order to improve them and to make Ministers more accountable. […] I support the Government's attempts to take the matter forward and improve our system of European scrutiny through their proposals. They could have gone further, and I would like to see the House go further at some stage. We should have a statutory scrutiny reserve so that Ministers would have to gain parliamentary approval before negotiations in the Council of Ministers. There should also be new powers for MPs to challenge the European Scrutiny Committee and debates on the Floor of the House. Perhaps such a debate could take place if a large number of MPs required it. I would prefer the House to go further on the question of adaptations to the Standing Committee system to bring more expertise into it.”

Theresa May, Hansard, 7th February 2008, https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2008-02-07c.1175.0&s=2008-01-01..2008-12-31+speaker%3A10426#g1189.5

“As I said, the scrutiny reserve should be put on a statutory basis so that Ministers are required to come to the Committee before negotiations at the European Council and cannot override it. My proposal is based on the Danish model. I recognise that there are some rigidities in that model and that it would be necessary to give the Committee a degree of flexibility so that Ministers could set out a negotiating position before they went to the Council. I accept that it makes sense for those particular discussions to be held in private so that the Government do not give the UK's negotiating position away. The minutes could be made public after the negotiations, however. My proposal would work along similar lines to the Danish model, although, as I said, the Committee would need to recognise the occasions on which Ministers needed to be given a degree of flexibility. The system would also need to be backed by clear sanctions so that if the Minister broke the reserve—if he or she came to an agreement with the Committee and went on to negotiate a different position—there could be some kind of formal censure. The crucial thing is to put Parliament back in the driving seat and make sure that we help to reduce the democratic deficit by ensuring that Ministers are responsible and accountable in Parliament for the decisions that they take.”

Theresa May, Hansard, 7th February 2008, https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2008-02-07c.1175.0&s=2008-01-01..2008-12-31+speaker%3A10426#g1189.5

The ‘Danish model’ advocated by Theresa May

A publication by the Lords EU Select Committee describes the following elements of a ‘Danish model’ of parliamentary scrutiny of EU negotiations:

The Government is to obtain a negotiating mandate from Parliament prior to the negotiations

“The Danish tradition of minority governments implied that Parliament and the Government agreed on an arrangement that obliged Government to appear before the European Affairs Committee prior to every Council meeting in order to obtain a negotiation mandate from the Committee on the most important dossiers.”

House of Lords, Memorandum by the Folketinget, Parliament of Denmark, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldselect/ldeucom/125/125we17.htm

There must be no parliamentary majority against the Government position

“More specifically, the Government must ensure that no majority exists in the Parliament against the Government's position in all matters of major significance.”

House of Lords, Memorandum by the Folketinget, Parliament of Denmark, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldselect/ldeucom/125/125we17.htm

The Government must inform Parliament as early as possible and on a continued basis of what it believes to be areas of major significance

“Government must on a continued basis and as early as possible inform the European Affairs Committee of proposed EU legislation that is deemed to be of major significance.”

House of Lords, Memorandum by the Folketinget, Parliament of Denmark, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldselect/ldeucom/125/125we17.htm

A negotiating mandate must be obtained before negotiations start

“Furthermore, the Government must obtain its negotiation mandate in the European Affairs Committee before the Danish negotiation position is established.”

House of Lords, Memorandum by the Folketinget, Parliament of Denmark, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldselect/ldeucom/125/125we17.htm

The Government must obtain a new mandate should the negotiations move outside the original mandate

“Lastly, the Government is obliged to seek a renewed mandate from the European Affairs Committee in case the negotiations move outside the original mandate.”

House of Lords, Memorandum by the Folketinget, Parliament of Denmark, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldselect/ldeucom/125/125we17.htm



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