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Exiting the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:32 pm on 28th June 2018.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Chair, Committee on Exiting the European Union 12:32 pm, 28th June 2018

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind words. We feel pretty busy already. I cannot promise that I will always make a statement on every one of our reports, because that is in the hands of the Backbench Business Committee.

The scenario that the hon. Gentleman describes is a possibility. It is not unknown in negotiations where two parties are discussing an agreement for them to report back to their members—in this case, Members of the European Parliament and Members of the House of Commons—and then return to the table and say, “I’m sorry but it didn’t go down terribly well with the members in this respect. Can we talk about what we are going to do about this?” It is possible that that situation might arise. That is why we thought it important to set out in the report what we think ought to happen. We say that Parliament should be able to express its view—that we in Parliament should be able to offer advice— and the Government should listen to that, but clearly it would be for the Government to go back and negotiate.

This also links to the recommendation about an amendable motion. When the Secretary of State came to give evidence, I asked him, “Will the motion to approve the withdrawal agreement be amendable”, and he indicated that it would be. I think he said, “Show me a motion that can’t be”; I paraphrase. In those circumstances, Parliament might want to say, “The whole thing’s fine”, or it might want to say, “All these bits are okay but we have reservations about this, or we’d like to see that included.” My personal view is that Parliament should be entitled to do that. The view of the Committee is that Parliament should be able to offer advice to the Government and then the Government will have to respond. If the agreement is not approved—or if conditions are put on its approval—in the House, any Government, in any circumstances, on either side of the negotiations, would have to reflect on that and work out what they were going to do.