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