When the Prime Minister triumphantly presented the “Windsor Framework” to the House of Commons in February, he agreed to respond to questions from his colleagues on the details of an agreement which has immense political and constitutional significance.
Sir William Cash, the Chairman of the European Union Scrutiny Committee, pressed upon Rishi Sunak the need “to respond to questions of democracy that arise on both the substance and the procedures”. The Prime Minister promised to address these.
Sir William’s disappointment at the Prime Minister’s failure to appear before his Committee today to respond to specific queries set up by the veteran MP and his colleagues is therefore entirely understandable. In a report published by the Committee, the Chairman notes that “An agreement of the political importance and legal complexity of the Windsor Framework demands close scrutiny and attention by those with specialist EU law and policy expertise”, which is precisely the function of his Committee. The Committee cannot carry out its role of informing and advising Parliament if it does not have its questions answered.
The report also explains why the timing of requested appearance was of vital importance. While no date has been set for a Parliamentary vote on the Framework at Westminster, the European Council is understood to be “set to agree to the proposals on 21 March with a joint UK-EU meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee due to sign off on the deal by as early as the end of that week”. At which point, the Framework would be presented to the House of Commons as a done deal, a ‘fait accompli’, depriving Westminster the opportunity to debate, let alone amend, the agreement in any meaningful way.
Crucial decisions affecting the sovereignty of our nation – Sir William fears – will have “already been decided by the Government and the EU”.