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Leaving the European Union: Machinery of Government Changes

Published Friday, December 16, 2016

This Lords Library briefing explores machinery of government changes announced by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, on 18 July 2016, in the wake of the United Kingdom’s referendum vote in favour of leaving the European Union.

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The changes announced included the creation of two new departments: the Department for Exiting the European Union and the Department for International Trade.

The Government has also made changes at a committee level, with the establishment of the new European Union Exit and Trade Cabinet Committee, which comprises of government ministers. In addition, a joint ministerial committee dedicated to discussing the UK’s negotiations with the EU has been created, formed of UK government ministers and representatives from the UK’s devolved administrations.

Parliament has also responded to the machinery of government changes. In the House of Commons, two committees have been formed to mirror the recently established government departments, tasked with scrutinising the departments’ actions. In the House of Lords, the Liaison Committee has formed an informal group to assist Parliament in its scrutiny of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. In addition, the European Union Committee has begun conducting a number of inquiries into the potential impact that leaving the EU will have on the UK, such as UK-Irish relations and the implications for Gibraltar.

This briefing explores the machinery of government changes, the introduction of new committees and Parliament’s response in further detail. The first section on government departments provides background as to their responsibilities and tasks, staffing and budgets. It also discusses how the new departments interact with existing government departments. The second section examines the creation of new cabinet and joint ministerial committees, including their structure and roles. The third section considers Parliament’s response to such changes, including the establishment of new select committees and how they intend on scrutinising both the UK’s negotiation process and the withdrawal from the EU.      

This briefing does not cover the issue of Parliament’s role in the process of triggering Article 50, which is currently the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Lords Library notes LLN-2016-0070

Author: Eren Waitzman

Topics: Central government, EU external relations, House of Commons, House of Lords, Parliament

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House of Lords Library

The House of Lords Library delivers research and information services to Members and staff of the House in support of parliamentary business.