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UK’s Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 12:33 pm on 14th March 2019.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 12:33 pm, 14th March 2019

No, I am not going to give way again for the moment.

As I said, the motion that the Government have tabled for today’s debate is a start. We basically have two options. First, if the House has approved a meaningful vote by 20 March and agreed a timetable for the EU withdrawal agreement Bill, we can expect the European Union to agree to a short technical extension to allow the necessary legislation to be carried through. If for whatever reason that proves not to be possible, we would be faced with the prospect of choosing only a long extension, during which the House would need to face up to the choices in front of it and the consequences of the decisions it has taken.

The Government recognise that the House would require time to consider the potential ways forward in such a scenario, so I can confirm today that in such a scenario the Government, having consulted the usual channels at that time, would facilitate a process in the two weeks after the March European Council to allow the House to seek a majority on the way forward. We should be clear about the consequences if that were to happen. If we are in the world of a longer extension so that this House can come to a decision, we will be required, as a condition, to hold European parliamentary elections in May. As the note on this issue published by the Government today sets out, we would need to begin to prepare for those elections in early April. In other words, we either deliver on the result of the referendum, giving people and businesses throughout the country the certainty that they are calling for, and move on as a nation, or we enter into a sustained period of uncertainty, during which time the Government would work with this House to find a way through, but which I fear would do real damage to the public’s faith in politics and trust in our democracy.