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 completely accept the sincerity and good intentions of the approach taken by my right hon. Friend and the other signatories to the amendment, but I still believe it has the deficiencies to which I referred. In this scenario we need a process that ensures that the House faces up to decisions. Therefore, on behalf of the Government, I have proposed that in the two weeks following the European Council—were we to be in the position by then that no withdrawal agreement has been approved by the House to allow for a technical extension only of article 50—we should hold consultations with other parties, through the usual channels, to try to find a process that enables the House to find its majority.

For the reasons that I set out earlier at some length, I simply do not think that the European Council would think it plausible to agree a three-month extension to article 50 without much greater clarity about the process and outcome of that hypothetical scenario. As he says, my right hon. Friend has always supported the deal that the Prime Minister negotiated and is on the table, but he puts forward a scenario in which the House might agree on something that required significant changes to the current text of the agreement. We do not know that, but we could then face a considerable exercise at EU level, with textual amendments and the process of going through different EU institutions.