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

I am second to none in my admiration and acknowledgment of my right hon. and learned Friend’s experience in this House, but I say to him, having served six years as Minister for Europe, that there is no such thing as a simple and easy change to the EU treaties. I was present in the United Kingdom seat when a very minor change of about half a sentence was made to the treaties to accommodate the needs of eurozone countries and ensure that what they wanted to do had an effective treaty basis. The process took roughly 13 months or so from the time that it was initiated until the time that it took effect. That is because not only do the treaties require a process of treaty change to go through a particular and detailed EU primary legislative process, but a change to the treaties also involves national ratification by the member states concerned. Indeed, I remember having to take a short Bill through this House, even though the treaty change that was at stake applied only to the member states of the eurozone, not to the United Kingdom. For that reason, I do not think that the sort of rapid treaty change that he would hope for actually exists in practice.