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 giving way again for a while.

I hope that the factual document that the Government published this morning, coupled with the latest statement from the President of the European Council, Mr Tusk, will have convinced right hon. and hon. Members that the choice I have described is not one that has somehow been invented for political ends but rather one that this House must face up to and confront.

I want to take a moment to set out to the House the reasons why the choice is so binary. That means explaining in a bit of detail the interaction with the European Parliament elections. Those elections will take place across the EU on 23 to 26 May, and the new European Parliament will meet for the first time on 2 July. As the Father of the House said, it is a fundamental requirement under the EU treaties that EU citizens are represented in the European Parliament. That derives from article 9, which says,

“Every national of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship”,

and from paragraph 2 of article 10, which says:

“Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament.”

The subsequent legislation that the European Union has passed is founded on those key principles set out in the treaties—the primary law that every member state of the European Union has to comply with and which has primacy over any domestic law to the contrary.

It flows from that that the new European Parliament would not be properly constituted if any member state did not have MEPs, and that for it to be improperly constituted would put all that Parliament’s actions, and the proper functioning of the EU’s institutions and its legislative process, at risk. There is no legal mechanism by which the UK could return MEPs to the new European Parliament other than by participating in the elections. The upshot is that the longest extension that we could propose without holding the elections is until the end of June, and if we did that, it would not be possible to extend again, because, as I said in response to an earlier intervention, to do so without having elected MEPs would compromise the proper functioning of the EU’s institutions and its legal process. In the absence of a deal, seeking such a short and, critically, one-off extension would be downright reckless and completely at odds with the position that this House adopted only last night, making a no-deal scenario far more, rather than less, likely. Not only that, but from everything we have heard from the EU, both in public and in private, it is a proposal it would not accept.