Exiting the European Union: Meaningful Vote

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 11th December 2018.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield 3:45 pm, 11th December 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Campbell, but I shall try to confine my remarks to the issue on the Order Paper, rather than the more general debate on the merit of the Government’s deal.

I supported this debate because I happen to agree that what happened yesterday was essentially pretty unprecedented. We have a deal before this House, and this House was in the middle of considering it. The terms under which the EU withdrawal Act passed through the House were an absolute and clear undertaking by the Government that Parliament would be involved at every stage, and that as soon as the deal had been reached it would be brought expeditiously to us—indeed, so much so that some people wondered if it might not appear in the House almost too early, before we had the opportunity to consider it properly. We were in the middle of that consideration.

I fully appreciate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s difficulty. If by going away and speaking to our European partners she will be a position to achieve some change to the deal that she can properly bring before the House, I can understand why she may have wished to interrupt its consideration. But I really do worry about the implications, because although I listened carefully to my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office, the Government appear to have given themselves very considerable latitude as to when this business might return to us. If it is clear by Monday of next week that the Prime Minister has not changed the terms of the treaty, I would expect that this House’s consideration of the business ought to resume at once, because it is not in the national interest that we should be prevented from expressing our view on the deal as soon as possible. That is my principal concern.

I was reassured by some of the things I heard this afternoon about the Government’s intentions, but it would simply not be acceptable for the debate to resume on 19 January. I just wanted to make that point, because it seems to be key.