Uk’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Father of the House of Commons 4:26 pm, 13th March 2019

It is almost three years since we had the referendum, and we have reached this extraordinary moment. Effectively, we are back to square one. There is absolutely no consensus within the Government, within the main Opposition party, within this Parliament or among the public on exactly what leave means. We are having to have a debate today on the question whether, after three years of futility, in 16 days’ time we just give up and leave and see what happens, although many of us know and fear the combination of things that are likely to happen if we do so.

This is bizarre because it is also still not totally clear how, if the House votes as I think it will by a large majority to rule out no deal tonight, we propose to guarantee that we deliver that conclusion. It sounds as though more attempts will be made to reach an agreement. I have voted for it twice, but the Government’s withdrawal agreement is dead in the water. Any kind of agreement must now find alternative routes.

We will get there somehow in 16 days. Tomorrow, we will probably vote for an extension, but we have to be clear: extension for how long, and extension what for? The whole thing is dependent on 27 other Governments, all of whom are fed up to the back teeth with the state of British politics, and with trying to negotiate with a British Government who cannot say what they want because they cannot even agree internally on what they want. We depend on the approval of those 27 countries to avoid this disaster, so as we debate no deal, we must consider further things.