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FOCUS - Osservatorio Brexit N. 1 - 21/06/2017

 The moment of truth. Or not?

In our last bulletin we highlighted the 15 legislative defeats suffered by the UK Government in the House of Lords last month. The amendments passed by the UK Parliament’s Upper House may have ground-breaking consequences: among other things, they could force the Prime Minister, Theresa May, back to the negotiating table; remove the fixed 29 March 2019 Brexit date; and keep the country in the EU customs union. The Lords’ interventions have indeed sparked criticisms among Brexiteers, who accuse the peers of a “power grab” at the expenses of the people, or even of behaving in an “unconstitutional” manner. Even though the Lords’ amendments are not legally binding on the UK Government, they might become so if approved by the House of Commons. Indeed, the Lords’ role is one of “reflection” in the sense that their decisions direct the Commons’ attention to specific issues on which an explicit position from Parliament is needed. The best course of action for the Government would therefore be to go to the Commons as soon as possible and overturn most, if not all, of the 15 legislative defeats. Arguably, with Brexit day approaching, it may be wise to enunciate, once and for all, Parliament’s will in the negotiations. However, in this process Her Majesty’s Executive faces opposition from Labour, the Lib Dems, as well as Tory rebels. Overall, the Prime Minister has a narrow numerical Commons majority (if one includes the support of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party), so a handful of rebels would be enough to inflict defeat - and change the course of Brexit, driving Tory divisions wide open. It is probably for this reason that, despite the request of Valerie Vaz, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, for the Lords’ amendments to the Bill to be considered in the Commons during the week of 21 May 2018, the vote is being postponed. The Guardian reported that the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said the Bill would return to the Commons “within weeks rather than months”, which the Guardian took to mean before the summer recess, which begins on 24 July 2018… (segue)

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