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

We have 16 days left. The hon. Gentleman and I have tabled an amendment that faces up to something that I think very few Members are facing up to. I have discovered in a fortnight that things change very rapidly—I did not anticipate 16 days ago that we would be in this debate—and anybody who forecasts with confidence the state of British politics in 14 or 16 days is being a little reckless. Unless somebody has an alternative, the only way of guaranteeing not leaving with no deal is to revoke article 50, as our amendment suggests.

We will have no other method to follow. I will not go back into the legalisms. I had this discussion with the Attorney General, who kindly sent me his opinion. He is a much superior lawyer to me—I am a very out-of-date criminal lawyer—but I do not altogether agree with him. It is the advocate-general who has expressed doubt about whether we could be said to be acting in good faith if we revoked and then invoked again. I think that is very arguable. I think we would be acting in extremely good faith if we made it clear that we were in no state to leave and would invoke again if and when we decided what we were pursuing.