The Brexit deal has not passed Parliament

23 October 2019
What was claimed

The Brexit deal has passed Parliament.

Our verdict

It has not.

Over the past day, the Conservative Party has claimed repeatedly on both Facebook and Twitter that “Boris’s Brexit deal has passed Parliament”.

It hasn’t. 

What happened is that the House of Commons voted yesterday to approve the Withdrawal Agreement Bill’s “second reading”. This is just one early stage in the process of Parliament passing a Bill. In the words of Parliament’s website, the second reading is “the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of the Bill.”

Voting to approve the second reading means that this Bill—which translates the deal agreed between the UK and the EU into UK law—can move on to its “committee stage”. That’s the stage when MPs have the chance to examine the Bill in detail, and can add amendments to it. 

Following committee stage, the Bill returns (possibly in an amended form) for a “report stage” and “third reading” by MPs, where they can change the Bill, or vote it down entirely. 

It will also need to go through similar stages in the House of Lords before becoming law.

After voting to allow the Bill to move on to committee stage, the Commons voted against the “programme motion”, which was the government’s proposed timetable for those next stages. This would have allowed two days for the scrutiny of the Bill. This short timetable has been described by the Institute for Government as “extraordinary”, especially given the significance of the Bill.

After this vote rejected the government’s timetable, the Prime Minister said the government would “pause” the Bill until the EU had made a decision on whether to offer an extension to the current Brexit deadline of 31 October. That doesn’t mean the Bill has been scrapped, and the government still has the option of proposing a new timetable for the next stages of the Bill.

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