Power to notify withdrawal from the EU

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 13th March 2017.

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Photo of Emma Reynolds Emma Reynolds Labour, Wolverhampton North East 6:00 pm, 13th March 2017

I rise to make two brief points. First, if we do not deal, now or in the next three months, with the issue of EU nationals here or UK nationals in the EU 27, those people will get caught up in the negotiations, because the Council is due to respond to the triggering of article 50 in May or June, after the French elections on 7 May. We expect the Council to give Michel Barnier a mandate at around that time. If the Government continue to drag their heels on this issue, which is important not only for EU nationals here, but for our nationals elsewhere, the certainty and uncertainty provoked will affect those people and their livelihoods for two years. What are the Government going to do once the formal negotiations begin on article 50, on the money and on all the things about which there will be such acrimony? How will the Government avoid EU nationals here and UK nationals in the EU being part of those negotiations? The Secretary of State did not provide an answer to that question. We have a short window of time, which will probably start tomorrow and end sometime in May or June.

Secondly, I reiterate something said by Anna Soubry in her eloquent speech. Some hon. Members on the Government Benches want us to leave without a deal, but what deal is worse than no deal? I find it difficult—in fact, impossible—to conceive of one. There is not one, and the right hon. Lady said that very clearly. Is falling back on WTO rules, with all the tariffs and obstructions to trade that go with that, better than some other deal that the Government can conceive of? What is this weird deal that they are talking about? There simply is not one. This House needs to have a say, whether there is a deal or not.

The Government have given very little clarity about what happens if—and we are told that they are preparing for this eventuality—a deal is not agreed between the UK and our European partners. That would be the very worst situation. The Secretary of State has spent his political career espousing and promoting parliamentary scrutiny and sovereignty—well, he used to, before he got his current position. Could we really leave the EU without a deal and without this Parliament having a say? Of course we could not. Why do the Government not just admit that and put it on the face of the Bill?