European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:08 pm on 29th January 2019.

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Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee 5:08 pm, 29th January 2019

I will not give way, because of the time, if that is okay.

My amendment is very simple. It calls on the Government to extend article 50 in the event that we do not have a deal by 26 February. The Prime Minister could still come back to the House on 13 or 14 February and if she can get her deal through Parliament, the amendment will become irrelevant. The Prime Minister still has another month to secure agreement, but the amendment would give us further time if that is necessary. My amendment does not specify an amount of time for which we should extend article 50. It would be up to the Government to agree that with our counterparts in the European Union.

My amendment diffs from amendment (b) tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford. My right hon. Friend, rightly, is trying to secure through legislation an extension to article 50 if needed, because so many of us have lost trust and lost faith in this Government. They have let us down on too many occasions. My amendment does not seek to go as far, although I very much support her amendment and will be voting for it this evening.

There are many alternatives, so let us explore them with the time that we have left. Let us try to find consensus and compromise. Let us not box ourselves in, get this wrong and have to live with the consequences either of a bad deal or of crashing out without a deal. We are all under conflicting pressures. We have duties to our constituents and obligations to our parties, and we must also listen to our consciences. I believe that, on issues such as this, we must put those interests aside and act in the national interest. We must rise to that challenge when we vote this evening.

My message to right hon. and hon. Members about the merits of my amendment, and why I hope they will support it, is straightforward. If they voted leave and want to see Brexit resolved but are worried about the danger of a no-deal Brexit, it would remove that risk. If they are pushing for a Norway-plus solution, it would keep open that possibility. If they are looking to protect environmental standards, consumer and workers’ rights, the customs union and a strong single market deal, it would allow them to continue making that argument and win it. If they want a people’s vote, but accept that the immediate priority must be to take no deal off the table, it is a key part of that process.

With the countdown clock ticking down by the day, we must all work together and agree a way forward by joining forces to end any prospect of a no-deal Brexit. We must have time to come up with a workable solution. We must not let down our country and crash out of the European Union without a deal, so I urge hon. Members to support my amendment.