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 will not give way further. I have been on my feet for more than an hour, and it is fair that other Members have the opportunity to catch your eye, Mr Speaker.

Finally, amendment (e) is tabled in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. It requests an extension of article 50, and for time to be provided for the House to find a majority for a different approach. On the first point, I am sure the official Opposition will be pleased to see that the motion under discussion concerns whether to extend article 50, so an amendment is hardly required on that point. As ever, however, the Opposition amendment is all about ruling things out, and never about proposing anything in their stead. I note that once again the Leader of the Opposition does not advocate a second referendum, and although that position accords with Government policy, I did not think it was also Labour policy. In truth, the right hon. Gentleman’s alternative Brexit plan—itself of questionable feasibility—was decisively rejected by 323 votes to 240 in the debate on 27 February, and I do not see the need to provide further time to discuss it.

In my opening remarks I said that seeking an extension to article 50 is not something that the Government ever wanted to do, but we have arrived at this point because that has been the will of this House. Now the House has to decide between the two courses of action that are realistically available. Either we approve a deal before the March European Council, legislating for it and ratifying it during a short technical extension until 30 June, or we fail in our duty to deliver on the result of the referendum and, if we are to comply with what the House voted for last night, we will be required to hold elections to the European Parliament, two months after the British people expected us to have left the EU, thereby prolonging the uncertainty that will do severe damage to this country. We face a stark and serious choice, and I commend the motion to the House.