The House of Lords: Conventions and Brexit


This paper examines the role of the House of Lords in Britain’s exit from the European Union. The paper focuses on the future passage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill in the House of Lords. It begins with a discussion of conventions which provide a guide to the potential behaviour of the House of Lords towards Brexit.

The author provides a detailed discussion of the role of the House of Lords in Brexit and highlights the work of committees in this process. It identifies three areas of concern about the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill expressed by committees. These are: the degree and method of incorporation of the EU acquis; the powers and competencies of the devolved administrations; and, the relationship between Parliament and the executive. The government will need to consider handling strategies and concessions to the Lords to successfully navigate these issues, if they are not addressed sufficiently through amendments in the House of Commons.

In the light of this discussion, the paper then provides three possible scenarios. These scenarios, in order of least likely to most likely, are: the House of Lords passes the Bill without amendment; the Lords veto the Bill or passes ‘wrecking’ amendments; or, the Lords pass significant amendments to the Bill. The paper suggests that the House of Lords is likely to significantly amend the Bill on issues relating to the three areas of concern outlined in the previous section.

This publication presents the personal views of the author and not those of The Constitution Society, which publishes it as a contribution to debate on this important subject.