Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:26 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Brexit), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade) 5:26 pm, 27th February 2019

I wish to speak to amendment (l), which has been tabled in my name and those of my hon. Friends. Yesterday, the Prime Minister had the opportunity to completely rule out no deal once and for all and to put forward a credible plan to break the Brexit deadlock. Instead, we had further options, further steps to take and further hoops to leap through. The House of Commons has already voted against no deal, a month ago. The end of March looms and, irrespective of the convenience of the Prime Minister, we do not have time to waste, so I am pleased to have added my name to the amendments tabled by the Scottish National party and other colleagues.

People outside Westminster are looking at the chaos of Brexit, and whatever they thought of this place previously, they now hold the common view that the House of Commons is fundamentally broken. Trust in Westminster is compromised, and faith in our ability to make decisions that will define our economy and society for generations to come has evaporated. Speaking as a Plaid Cymru MP, I find these attitudes towards government from London unremarkable, but it is something else to hear such appraisals from otherwise staunch supporters of the status quo.

Yesterday’s events were of no help, with the leaders of both the major Westminster parties being dragged unwillingly towards the logical conclusion of extending the article 50 period and of getting some clarity so that we can call a people’s vote. Our amendment (l) offers part of that solution. It requires the Prime Minister to respect the wishes of the National Assembly for Wales and of the Scottish Parliament, as well as the will of many in this House. It would avoid a no deal by obliging the Prime Minister to request an article 50 extension to the end of 2021, replacing the 21-month transition period with sufficient time to allow the UK as a member state—a rule maker rather than a rule taker—and the EU to develop plans for their future relationship, with the aim of making the contentious Irish backstop redundant, and then putting the whole thing to a public vote.

My understanding is that Brussels is determined to avoid offering us a brief extension. That august organ, the Evening Standard, is making that point this very afternoon. Brussels is determined to avoid offering us a brief extension, because that would lead to the danger of having to revisit the issue again in the summer if—or when—the Government again fail to win Parliament round. Donald Tusk has indicated that the extension we propose would be the optimal period of time, and an EU diplomat said yesterday that the

“21-month extension makes sense as it would cover the multi-financial framework”— the EU’s budget period—

“and make things easier. Provided leaders are not completely down with Brexit fatigue, and a three-month technical extension won’t cut it, I would expect a 21-month kick” of the can.