In the event of a Leave vote Brexit would dominate Westminster for years

big-benLord Lisvane, former Clerk of the House of Commons, discusses the impact that a vote to leave the EU would have on Westminster in the immediate aftermath of the referendum, during Brexit negotiations and once Brexit has actually taken place. The UCL European Institute, together with the UCL Constitution Unit, is holding a special series of seminars on the implications and consequences of Brexit. The first, on 21 April, focused on the consequences for Westminster and Whitehall. In this post, adapted from his comments on the night.

The immediate aftermath

After a vote to leave there will be immediate pressure for debates in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, probably over two days, to be held as soon as possible. There may even be calls for a rare weekend recall, though this is in the Prime Minister’s hands and I think it very unlikely that he would grant one.

David Cameron’s future will, of course, be high on the agenda. He has said that he would stay on as Prime Minister to oversee the consequences of a vote to leave, but there are Conservative MPs who have suggested that he won’t have the opportunity to do that. Might he throw the dice and have a vote of confidence among members of his own party, or would that be too high risk? Continue reading

MPs are from Mars, peers are from Venus: Westminster and the EU

big-benIn this post, Dr Julie Smith, Director of the European Centre at Polis at the University of Cambridge and member of the House of Lords, examines how attitudes towards parliamentary scrutiny of EU affairs differs between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. How do other member state parliamentarians balance the local needs of their electorates with those of EU-level governance and are there any lessons to be learned for the UK Parliament in the run-up to the EU referendum?

If you listen to debates on the EU in the two chambers of the British parliament, you could be forgiven for thinking you have landed on two different planets.

In the Commons, plenary debates on Europe are heated and often hostile, with Euroscepticism the order of the day. Few MPs display great insight into matters European but they do express themselves with passion.

Meanwhile in the Lords the vast majority of members are pro-European, with debate harking back to another age when Britain’s membership of the EU was thought to be settled and broadly beneficial. Continue reading