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This volume addresses an important aspect of Brexit that has been ever-present in public debates, but has so far not received corresponding attention by academic scholars, namely the role of parliaments and citizens in this process. To address this gap, this book brings together an international group of authors who provide a comprehensive and multidisciplinary treatment of this subject. Specifically, the contributors, scholars from the UK and across Europe, provide diverse accounts of the role of regional, national and European parliaments and citizens from the perspectives of Law, Political Science and European Studies. The book is structured in three parts focused on developments, respectively, in the UK, in the parliaments of the EU27, and at the EU level. Beyond providing a comprehensive examination of the scrutiny of Brexit, the book utilises the insights gained from this experience for a study of executive-legislative relations in the European Union more generally, examining the balance, or lack thereof, between governments and parliaments. In this way, the book also speaks to some of the long-lasting, indeed perennial questions about the effects of constitutional provisions and political practice in the context of European democracy.



Chapter 1. Introduction

This introductory chapter aims at setting the background of the analyses presented in the chapters of this edited volume. It explains in which context Brexit has intervened, and why it has been such an important issue for the British Parliament, as well as for the European Parliament and the parliaments of the other European Union member states. Citizens’ participation is examined too. It also draws general conclusions as to the impact of Brexit on parliamentary democracy, and parliaments’ participation in EU affairs.
Thomas Christiansen, Diane Fromage

The UK Parliament and Brexit


Chapter 2. What Do We Mean by Parliamentary Scrutiny of Brexit? A View from the House of Commons

The United Kingdom’s (UK’s) withdrawal from the European Union (EU) has already resulted in three significant pieces of legislation for the UK Parliament to scrutinise: the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill in the 2016–17 session, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and the Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Bill in the 2017–19 session, all three of which went on to receive Royal Assent. We explore here the type and quality of parliamentary scrutiny of the first of these bills. Scrutiny is an ambiguous concept contingent upon a legislature’s constitutional and procedural rules but also contingent on the stances of particular actors—including government, opposition, parliamentary committees and outside observers. We explore here the perspectives of key actors during the House of Commons’ scrutiny of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. Our analysis finds that the quality of parliament’s scrutiny of the bill shifts, depending on who is asking the question, their objectives, the object of their scrutiny and the forum in which the question is being asked. In short, the meanings attributed to scrutiny of EU withdrawal in the UK Parliament broadly correspond to the various constitutional, procedural and party-political dimensions in play.
Louise Thompson, Ben Yong

Chapter 3. Brexit and the UK Parliament: Challenges and Opportunities

Brexit has been dominating the UK Parliament’s activities as negotiations on the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) have been taking place. Parliament is a primary venue for members of Parliament (MPs) to express preferences and attempt to alter the Brexit process. It offers a wide range of opportunities for MPs to voice dissent, signal their preferences and influence the Brexit agenda, especially in light of the government’s minority status. This chapter assesses the role and influence of the UK Parliament vis-à-vis government in the process of the UK leaving the EU. The chapter draws on data collected as part of an Economic and Social Research Council–funded project. We draw on non-attributable interviews with committee clerks and MPs and our own dataset of divisions in select committees, the content of select committee reports, MPs’ positions on the Brexit referendum, MPs’ contributions to debates, parliamentary votes, amendments and other parliamentary activities. We show the extent of Brexit-related parliamentary activity. We examine the role of Parliament in amending Brexit-related legislation, and the role of House of Commons select committees in the Brexit process. We find that while the executive-legislative relationship has not fundamentally changed, divisions within the two largest political parties and the government’s minority status after the 2017 general election have meant the executive has had to make concessions to its own backbench MPs on both sides of the referendum debate, in order to ensure the passage of legislation. Select committees have been influential at times through common themes emerging in some of their reports and their ability to highlight issues not previously on the agenda. Nevertheless, they have also been undermined to some degree by divisions between committees on the Leave-Remain and core-periphery dimensions and within the Brexit committee.
Philip Lynch, Richard Whitaker, Adam Cygan

Chapter 4. Fighting to ‘Take Back Control’: The House of Lords and Brexit

A key aspect of the campaign to leave the European Union (EU) was the chance to ‘take back control of our laws’. No longer would ‘Brussels’ tell the United Kingdom what to do, or so the narrative developed. The logic was that Parliament would regain powers that had been transferred to the EU over the course of half a century. Yet, when she sought to trigger Article 50, Prime Minister Theresa May initially tried to circumvent Parliament in an early sign that Brexit could mark an executive power grab. Only thanks to a court ruling was Parliament enabled to vote on the matter, prompting the first in a series of pieces of legislation on Brexit: the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017. Complementing the chapters by Thompson and Yong and by Whitaker et al. in this volume, this chapter will explore the changing dynamics of Parliament-Executive relations in light of Brexit, focusing primarily on the role of the upper chamber—the House of Lords—where the Government does not have majority, thanks to the unusual methods of appointing peers, many of whom sit as Cross-benchers, outside the normal party system. It will look at the Government’s ability to get legislation through the Lords, with particular reference to the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 and the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
Julie Smith

Brexit and the National Parliaments in the EU


Chapter 5. The Scrutiny of Brexit in National Parliaments: Germany, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic Compared

The outcome of the Brexit referendum has led to a highly mediatized battle of power between the British government and parliament over how much influence the latter can exert over the British position in the negotiations with the European Union (EU). At the same time, the role of parliaments in the remaining member states has received virtually no public attention, despite the fact that the stakes are also high for their publics. The aim of our chapter is to shed light on dynamics of parliamentary control of Brexit in the remaining member states through a comparative study of the German, Czech and Luxembourgish parliaments. Each of these member states has one or several key interests at stake in the negotiations, such as exports, the financial sector and future contributions to the EU budget (Germany, Luxembourg), or migration to the UK and the maintenance of EU policies and their budgetary health (Czech Republic). The three cases represent geographical diversity and differently sized countries, to take into account different levels of governmental influence over the Brexit negotiations. The study will focus on the formal powers of parliaments, their actual mobilization and the key dynamics that mark their scrutiny of the Brexit negotiations.
Vanessa Buth, Anna-Lena Högenauer, Petr Kaniok

Chapter 6. National and Regional Parliaments in the Context of Brexit: The Case of Belgium

The aim of this chapter is to examine how Brexit has been addressed by national and regional parliaments in Belgium. The chapter will be structured around four key questions corresponding to four dimensions of parliamentary scrutiny: first, the constitutional dimension, how does the executive-legislative relationship play out over the issue of Brexit in Belgium? Second, the procedural dimension, what is the impact that parliaments can have on European Union (EU) affairs in general, and on Brexit in particular? Third, the party-politics dimension, do political parties emphasize the same issues across different levels and depending on their role as government or opposition parties? And, fourth, the national interest dimension, how does the attention paid by regional and federal parliaments reflect the configurations of national interests in a multilevel setting? Relying on an analysis of parliamentary questions, this chapter shows that, so far, Brexit has not been a very divisive issue in Belgium, but that regional parliaments may want to bolster their role through increased scrutiny on more technical issues.
Vivien Sierens, Nathalie Brack

Chapter 7. The Polish Parliament and the Scrutiny of Brexit in Poland

Poland faces with Brexit the loss of one of its most important political and economic partners in the European Union (EU). Poland has had a trade surplus in goods and services with the United Kingdom (UK), with the latter also being the top destination of Polish emigration and constituting one of the biggest net contributors to the EU budget of which Poland is so far the largest recipient. Moreover, both countries have usually shared similar visions of the Single Market and the future direction of European integration. For this reason, the Polish government considers the negotiation of the UK withdrawal from the EU as well as forging the new UK-EU relationship as crucial processes for its national interests. The aim of this chapter is to account for the role of the Polish parliament in these procedures. The analysis of actual parliamentary engagement in the oversight of Brexit negotiations reveals that its role in the process is limited to mere monitoring and receipt of governmental information, despite the parliament’s fairly strong scrutiny powers in EU affairs. While the members of parliament are not able to influence the process by mandating the executive, the level of politicization of Brexit in the parliamentary arena is quite high, with the governing and opposition parties exploiting the topic for their own political gains.
Karolina Borońska-Hryniewiecka

Chapter 8. The Irish Parliament and Brexit

The economy predicted to be most negatively impacted by Brexit is not that of the United Kingdom (UK). It is that of Ireland, whose close trading relationship with the UK makes it peculiarly vulnerable to any deterioration in the trade now safeguarded by common membership of the European Union’s (EU’s) single internal market and customs union. Ireland is also the only state with a land border with the UK, the focus of a conflict with 3500 deaths which ended with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. All this and the close linguistic, cultural and historical ties plus the existence of a common travel area between Ireland and the UK mean that the economic, political and social ramifications of Brexit for Ireland extend beyond those of other EU member states. The worried attention of Irish politicians and the public has unsurprisingly focused on the prospect of Brexit since before the 23 June 2016 vote. But how has this been reflected in the activities of the Irish legislature, the Oireachtas? What influence have Oireachtas members been able to exercise on the Government’s position on Brexit? Has the legislature brought any added value? This chapter seeks to answer such questions while examining the constitutional, procedural and party-political dimensions of Brexit in Ireland.
Gavin Barrett

Chapter 9. The Spanish Parliament and Brexit

In the Spanish Parliament, European affairs are dealt with in a joint committee made up of representatives of the Congress and the Senate. This committee is in charge of controlling the Government in matters related to the European Union; it is also the body in charge of controlling the Union’s compliance with the principle of subsidiarity. Until very recently, the Spanish Parliament’s control was not very demanding due mainly to three factors: first, because the current legislation obliges the Government only to inform the Cortes about its activities within the European Council and the Council, but does not allow the Cortes to give the Government a compulsory negotiating mandate; second, because the governments formed until recently had a sufficiently large parliamentary majority to be able to govern without parliamentary obstacles; and, third, because also until recently, European issues have generated a broad consensus, in general terms. However, the last two general elections have meant a radical change in the political scenario, which means, on the one hand, that the Government no longer has such large parliamentary majorities and, on the other hand, that the consensus about European affairs has considerably weakened. It is in this new context that the Spanish parliament addresses the Brexit issue: an issue that has an added difficulty for Spain—the Gibraltar question. This chapter thus analyses how the Spanish Parliament deals with Brexit. It studies how the Government-Parliament relations have played out over Brexit and how the Joint Committee for the EU has centralized these relations, and shows how Parliament’s influence on the Government’s position in the negotiations with the EU has been practically nil. It also underlines that the position of the political parties with respect to Brexit did not show great differences—the common position being one of rejection—and how the Cortes have tried to remain informed of public opinion and particular interests through the appearances of experts and professionals, as well as public officials and representatives of various social groups summoned to appear before the Joint Committee and to report to it to this effect.
Antonio Bar Cendón

Brexit, the European Parliament and EU Citizens


Chapter 10. The European Parliament in the Brexit Process: Leading Role, Supporting Role or Just a Small Cameo?

The chapter researches the role of the European Parliament (EP) in the politically charged Brexit process and outlines the opportunities and challenges that it implies. The EP’s role is explored within four specific dimensions: (1) constitutional dimension, (2) procedural dimension, (3) party-political dimension and (4) national-interest dimension. Within the constitutional dimension, the analysis focuses firstly on how the EP has reacted institutionally to Brexit (i.e. in terms of setting up special committees or working groups) and secondly on the relationship between the EP and other European Union (EU) institutions, reflecting on the interinstitutional balance and dynamics in the withdrawal process. The procedural dimension concentrates on the extent to which the EP has been able to influence the withdrawal process as opposed to only giving or withholding its consent to any final deal negotiated between the British government and the European Commission. In this context, attention is paid also to the balance between the EP’s formal and informal role(s) in the Brexit process. Within the party-political dimension, the chapter discusses the partisan influence, exploring if and how party-political ties impact EP’s performance vis-à-vis Brexit. Finally, the national-interest dimension addresses the extent to which members of the parliament (MEPs) are (or are not) split along national lines when it comes to taking positions on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Monika Brusenbauch Meislova

Chapter 11. The Impact of Brexit on the European Parliament: The Role of British MEPs in Euro-Mediterranean Affairs

Many of the aspects around Brexit have been related to policies between Europe and the Middle East/North Africa. The nightmarish collapse of Arab societies and security structures, especially in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, and the resulting 100,000s refugees fleeing towards Europe reawakened intensive debates about immigration, Islamisation and terrorism in the UK, embedded in the long-term dispute about what competences the EU should generally have.
The cleavages within Britain’s society between “remainers” and “leavers” also reverberated among UK’s 73 members of the European Parliament (UK-MEPs). Brexit supporters promoted fundamentally different ideas about the growing challenges in the EU’s southern neighbourhood than those who supported Britain’s EU membership. UK-MEPs were particularly disunited about whether borders for refugees should be opened or closed, whether Muslims posed a threat or enrichment for Europe’s societies, and whether closer cooperation in EU justice and home affairs led to higher or lower security.
With the means of a discourse analysis, this chapter analyses the contributions UK-MEPs have made to EU-Mediterranean policies during their last tenure in the European Parliament, 2014–2019. It shows that Brexiters used Mediterranean issues primarily as just another occasion to renew their criticism of the EU, calling for a leave from Brussels; Remainers, meanwhile, continued to dispute about the right European responses, and tried to shape EU policies as much as possible according to their political priorities.
Jan Claudius Völkel

Chapter 12. Facilitating the Participation of EU Citizens in the Brexit Negotiation Process

Given the significant future impact of Brexit on the Union, citizens and other stakeholders have not merely relied on the established mechanisms of representative democracy, but have been seeking and actively using any available means for information and direct participation. This chapter aims to examine the available mechanisms for citizens and representative associations to scrutinise and participate in the Brexit negotiations at the European Union (EU) level. Effective citizen scrutiny and participation presuppose transparency and access to information. It is therefore first examined what means have been used to inform the public throughout the process. Subsequently, the different institutional forms of EU citizens’ direct participation in the context of the Brexit negotiations are examined. As an overall aim, this chapter assesses the standards which the Brexit negotiations have set and the shortcomings which remain with respect to openness, transparency and citizens’ involvement at the EU level.
Natassa Athanasiadou


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