Power to notify withdrawal from the EU

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 13th March 2017.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 4:30 pm, 13th March 2017

My right hon. and learned—and old—Friend makes a good point. The simple truth here, however, as I have said before, is that nothing can constrain this House’s right to debate and vote on anything it sees fit, and that meets this.

What I am dealing with here is subsection (4), and there are even bigger problems with it. During the debate on this issue in the other House, the author of the amendment, Lord Pannick, himself admitted he did not know what would happen if Parliament voted against leaving the EU without a deal. This uncertainty is itself a strong argument against putting this amendment into statute.

However, a significant number of Lords supported this amendment—that may not be true in this House—such as Lord Wigley and Baroness Kennedy, and they made their intentions clear: if Parliament were to vote against leaving without a deal, the UK should seek to remain in the EU and reverse the result of the referendum. I should say to my hon. and right hon. Friends that the European Union member states and the European Union institutions read the proceedings of this House very closely; they will have read that, and it will have raised their interest, because that is precisely what they would like to happen. So while this has been badged as a meaningful vote, the reality is that there are some who would seek to use it to overturn the result of the referendum. [Interruption.] “Good idea” comes from across the Floor. That is exactly, I am afraid, what concerns us.

The Government and the Prime Minister have been crystal clear. The people of the United Kingdom have decided to leave the European Union. The Government will seek to implement this decision in the way that is most beneficial to both the United Kingdom and the European Union. What we will not do, however, is accept anything that will put the intention to leave the European Union in doubt.