Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Labour, Wolverhampton South East 5:15 pm, 27th February 2019

I am pleased to follow Richard Drax, although I shall take a somewhat different tack. I shall make a couple of points about what the Prime Minister said yesterday about how things would be voted on in March, and about the related amendments on that issue that are on the Order Paper today.

Yesterday, for the first time, the Prime Minister was forced to admit that we do not actually have to leave the EU without a deal on 29 March, unless that is an outcome for which Parliament explicitly votes. That admission could, of course, have come much earlier, and was only dragged out of her by the threat of ministerial resignations, but it was an important admission all the same. She added that any extension must be short and limited, and must not go beyond the end of June, because that would create

“a much sharper cliff edge in a few months’
time.”—[Official Report, 26 February 2019;
Vol. 655, c. 167.]

In other words, she told us that if March was a legal deadline, the end of June was a brick wall. However, there is no point in applying for an extension for a couple of months just to carry on the same parliamentary gridlock in which we lurch from one vote to another every fortnight without the fundamental issue ever being decided.

The Prime Minister is right about one thing. She was right to say that an extension like that on its own will not take no deal off the table. Unless something else changes, it will just give a bit more road for can-kicking. If we are to have an extension, it must be for a purpose, and that purpose should be clarity about the future relationship between the UK and the EU. We are having a huge argument about the withdrawal agreement when the fundamental choices about the future have not been faced up to, let alone decided.