European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 2:03 pm on 12th March 2019.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 2:03 pm, 12th March 2019

I really am going to try to make a little more progress. I have been extremely generous with interventions. Not everybody in this House is as generous as I am when it comes to interventions. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

I set out to the House two weeks ago the specifics of what will happen if the deal is rejected tonight. We will first return tomorrow to consider whether the House supports leaving the European Union on 29 March without a withdrawal agreement and a framework for a future relationship. If the House votes against no deal, it will vote on whether to seek an extension of article 50.

I sincerely hope that the House does not put itself in that invidious position. We can avoid it by supporting what I profoundly believe is a good deal, and a substantially better deal than we had eight weeks ago, but if it comes to it, the choices will be bleak. In the long term, we could ultimately make a success of no deal, but there would be significant economic shock in the short term. Be in no doubt about the impact that would have on businesses and families. We would lose the security co-operation that helps to keep us safe from crime, terrorism and other threats, and we would risk weakening support for our Union.

I note that Ian Blackford tabled an amendment seeking a second Scottish independence referendum. Polling shows that support for both Scottish independence and a united Ireland would be higher if we left without a deal, while, in the absence of institutions in Northern Ireland, a no deal would create a substantial problem of governance there.

Should the House reject leaving on 29 March without a deal and then support the Government’s seeking an extension to article 50, our problems would not be solved. An extension without a plan would prolong the uncertainty, threatening jobs and investment, yet, even as it did so, it would not change the debate or the questions that need to be settled. It would merely pass control to the European Union. They would decide how long an extension to offer, meaning we may not get what we ask for. They could even impose conditions on an extension. That could mean moving to a Brexit that does not meet the expectations of those who voted to leave, or even moving to a second referendum, with all the damage that would do to trust in our democracy. Equally, there is a risk that, having voted for an extension, the House still would not be able to agree a way forward and we would end up leaving without a deal.