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The 'Strasbourg package'

Published Wednesday, March 13, 2019

On 11 March 2019 the UK government and the EU agreed a series of 'interpretations' and 'clarifications' of the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration they negotiated in November 2018. What is in the published documents? What are their effects? To what extent do they provide legally binding guarantees? How did they change the Attorney General's legal opinion of the Withdrawal Agreement? What was the result of the second 'meaningful vote' held in the House of Commons on the updated 'package', and what happens next?

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On the evening of 11 March, the Prime Minister returned from Strasbourg after a final round of negotiations with the EU having secured a package of interpretations and clarifications on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration that were agreed between the UK and the EU in November 2018. The UK Government then published six documents that form the latest negotiated settlement on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union:

  • A statement that political agreement has been reached;
  • The Political Declaration (unchanged);
  • The Withdrawal Agreement (unchanged);
  • A Joint Interpretative Instrument on the Withdrawal Agreement;
  • A Joint Statement on the Political Declaration; and
  • A unilateral declaration by the UK

The European Commission released a Communication summarising the negotiations so far and endorsing the Joint Interpretative Instrument (‘the Instrument’) and the Joint Statement, subject to the House of Commons approving the package. President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Junker, wrote to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, recommending the Council endorse the Instrument and Joint Statement at the European Council meeting on 21-22 March, subject also to receiving the approval of the House of Commons.

On 12 March the Attorney General wrote a letter to the Prime Minister updating his legal opinion of the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration in light of the new assurances contained in these documents.

Despite the new assurances secured in the ‘package’, on the same day, the House of Commons rejected the motion to approve the negotiated settlement by 391 votes to 242, the second time the Government has failed to secure backing in a ‘meaningful vote’ on the Withdrawal Agreement.

On 13 March the House of Commons will vote on whether to leave the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019. If it votes against leaving without a deal, then the House will vote on 14 March on whether to extend the Article 50 period.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8525

Authors: John Curtis; Sylvia de Mars

Topics: EU law and treaties, Europe, House of Commons, International law

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