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 Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield 6:00 pm, 13th March 2017

I want to support the Government in carrying out an efficient and effective Brexit but, after listening to some of the contributions this afternoon, I think I am living in wonderland.

I will focus solely on Lords amendment 2, particularly subsection (4). The first thing to understand is that, as matters stand, there will be a need not for resolutions of this House, but for primary legislation to complete the process. In fact, there will be a need for primary legislation even if we have no deal at all. I do not know when the Government want to deal with that. They could conceivably try to do it during the course of the great repeal Bill, but they have not suggested that that is what the great repeal Bill—which is, in fact, an entrenchment Bill—is all about. So it seems that if there is no deal at the end of the process, there will have to be primary legislation by this House, if that has not already been done.

Interestingly, far from the Lords trying to lead to great litigation, their view—if the Government bother to read Lord Hope’s speech—was that litigation could be avoided by tabling the amendment and providing for a resolution mechanism at the end. I can promise my hon. and right hon. Friends who think that there is some whizzo way of getting around the litigation that, if they do not follow proper constitutional process, there will be litigation, and that litigation will hold matters up.

Now, I am not so concerned about amendment 2. I am concerned about getting an assurance from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union that, if there is no deal at the end of the process, which will be a very significant moment in this country’s history, Parliament has an opportunity to debate and vote on that. Far from that being an obstruction of the process, I would expect it to be part of the normal constitutional process and the Government to seek the endorsement of the House for that very significant act. I worry that my right hon. Friend—who, I think, personally may well agree with me—has been prevented from saying that at the Dispatch Box. I am afraid that I am not prepared to follow processes that appear to be, frankly, deranged.

There is a clear way of doing things. If we follow them, we will come up with the right decisions at each point; if we do not, we will mire ourselves in chaos. I want to support the Government, but I have to say, most reluctantly, that if we persist with this, I cannot support the Government this evening when it comes to amendment 2. I am very sorry about that. I would like to be able to support the Government because the critique of the Lords amendment has some force, but someone has to put down a marker that we have to follow a proper process in the way in which we carry out Brexit.