Power to notify withdrawal from the EU

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 13th March 2017.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 4:26 pm, 13th March 2017

We introduced the most straightforward possible Bill necessary to enact the referendum result and respect the Supreme Court’s judgment. This Bill has a simple purpose: to allow the Prime Minister to notify under article 50 and start the two-year negotiation process. The House of Commons has already accepted that, voting overwhelmingly to pass this Bill, unamended, last month. The House accepted that the majority of people, no matter which way they voted in June, want the Prime Minister to get on with the job at hand, and to do so without any strings attached. Despite the simple purpose of this Bill, it has generated many hours of debate in both Houses—quite properly, I say to those who debate whether it should have.

Over the past five weeks, we have seen Parliament at its best. Hon. and right hon. Members and peers have spoken on this subject with passion, sincerity and conviction. However, I was disappointed that the House of Lords voted to amend the Bill. The Bill is just the next step in the long, democratic process surrounding our exit from the European Union. That process will continue with future legislation, ranging from the great repeal Bill, which will convert EU law into UK law at the time we leave, to a range of specific Bills that we expect to introduce, such as on immigration or customs arrangements. Parliament will be closely involved in all of those important discussions and decisions.

As we embark on the forthcoming negotiations, our guiding approach is simple: we will not do anything that will undermine the national interest, including the interest of British citizens living in the European Union, and we will not enter negotiations with our hands tied. That is not to say that I do not appreciate the concerns that lie behind these amendments. It is not the ends that we disagree on, but the means, and I will attempt to address these individually—