Open Europe Blog

Labour won’t be there on 5 July

We have heard today that the Labour Party have decided not to turn up and vote on 5 July on the Conservative-sponsored Private Members Bill on an EU referendum. As we have written before, the Referendum Bill faces many hurdles before it has a chance of becoming law but if Labour abstain on 5 July it does help its chances. So what are its chances now – here is a recap.

1st Reading  – 19 June – We will get the name of the Bill but not necessarily the final text. At this stage there is no vote as all that happens is the Bill is lodged before Parliament.

2nd Reading – 5 July  – 100+ Conservative MPs are needed to turn up on the Friday to secure the closure of the debate. This is followed by a vote on the Bill itself – which now, without Labour opposition, will presumably pass.

Committee Stage. A lot might depend on who chairs the Committee and whether anyone tries to bog it down but it is still possible the Bill will survive the Committee and get to report stage.

Report stage. At report stage any MP can table amendments. If the Labour Party wish to derail the Bill this could be their chance. If it passes it would then be voted on at 3rd reading.

3rd Reading. If it has survived to this stage it would be interesting to see what the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats do next. Do they change their mind and vote against the Bill or risk it passing and heading off to the Lords unopposed? But if the plan is to vote against at 3rd reading why not vote against on 5 July on the principle of the issue? And what of Conservative MPs – will some be tempted to table their own amendments on issues such as timing and the meaning of renegotiation?

As always with matters EU it is likely to become a political football. So will the Bill get to the Lords? On balance, it is still difficult, but its chances have just improved.

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