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What has the Government said about its position before treaty negotiations?

Following the vote on 23 June 2016 to leave the European Union there has been a lot of parliamentary interest in treaty negotiations – particularly the Government’s provision of information to Parliament about its negotiating position and ‘red lines’ ahead of negotiations.

Who has responsibility for treaty negotiations?

Treaty negotiation is a matter for the UK Government. There is no formal requirement or mechanism in the UK for parliamentary scrutiny before or during treaty negotiations (when changes could still be made to the text), although Ministers will commonly ‘communicate with the relevant select committee’ before signing a treaty [HL Deb 31 January 2008 c796].

White and Green Papers

The Government also sometimes publishes information about its negotiating position. This paper provides some examples of green and white papers and other consultation the UK Government has used to set out its position in negotiating EU and other international treaties:

  • Treaty of Rome (EEC membership)
  • Renegotiation of UK terms of entry
  • Treaty on European Union (Maastricht)
  • Treaty of Amsterdam
  • Treaty of Nice
  • Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe
  • Treaty of Lisbon
  • The Biological Weapons Convention
  • The Arms Trade Treaty

They do not always set out a negotiating strategy and they vary in the amount of detail provided.

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