Parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee (ESC) has called on the Government to schedule a debate and vote in the House of Commons on the EU’s mandate for negotiating a future relationship with the UK.

It has consulted other Select Committees on the implications of the current talks for the UK’s vital national interests in their policy areas and its report also highlights their concerns.

The report, which can be found at https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmeuleg/333/33303.htm, examines the EU’s negotiating position, as well as the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s February statement and UK Government’s Command Paper setting out its objectives.

It urges the Government to conduct its negotiations with the European Union with the fullest possible transparency to facilitate essential parliamentary scrutiny and also urges those involved to make regular progress reports on the negotiations.

ESC Chairman Sir William Cash said: “Whilst we acknowledge the sensitive nature of the negotiations between the UK and EU regarding the future relationship, we reaffirm that Parliament must maintain its continuing pivotal role in safeguarding the UK’s vital national interests throughout the negotiations, both in the House of Commons itself and through its Select Committees.”

The report highlights the Written Statement to Parliament on 9 March 2020 made by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove in which he said that the Government expected to table “a number of legal texts, including a draft Free Trade Agreement” shortly.

“We understand that these texts have so far only been made available, on a confidential basis, to the European Commission Task Force responsible for negotiating with the UK,” the report points out.

Mr Gove told the Committee on the Future Relationship with the EU that it would be appropriate to share these texts with Parliament, but “regarding the key question as to when [they are] published, no decision has yet been taken on that timing”.

A greater degree of transparency is possible and desirable without undermining the UK’s negotiating position, the ESC argues.

As the European Commission has published its draft legal text, it encourages the Government to publish the texts it has made available to the Commission’s Task Force and to undertake to make subsequent draft legal texts available to Parliament.

Last reviewed 11 May 2020