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UK’s Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 1:38 pm on 14th March 2019.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 1:38 pm, 14th March 2019

I rise to support amendment (e) tabled in my name and that of the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister announced two weeks ago that she would hold a second meaningful vote on 12 March; and that if that failed she would enable a vote on 13 March to rule out leaving the European Union on 29 March without a deal; and that if that succeeded, she would enable a vote on the extension of article 50 on 14 March, which is today. She was taken at her word. Had she simply done that yesterday, and tabled a simple motion to seek agreement that the UK would not leave the EU on 29 March without an agreement, she would have succeeded with a hefty majority. However, for reasons best known to herself and her advisers, she tagged unnecessary words on to her motion, causing splits, divisions and chaos on her own side, and putting further into question the ability of the Government to govern.

Today, it seems that the lessons of yesterday have not been learnt. A simple motion today seeking a mandate from this House to ask for an extension of article 50 for a length and purpose to be negotiated with the EU would pass by a hefty majority, but again the Prime Minister risks splits, divisions and chaos by tabling a motion that wraps the question of whether there should be a third meaningful vote into what should be a simple question of extension. The idea of bringing back the deal for a third time without even the pretence that anything has changed—other than, of course, using up more time—is an act of desperation.

Mr Speaker, yesterday I was offered a £50 bet on the third meaningful vote by Mr Francois, which would go to Help for Heroes. I should have taken up that bet. Perhaps he and I should now both offer £50 to Help for Heroes, because, in all seriousness, it looks as though the Government are adopting the absurd and irresponsible approach of simply putting before us the same deal again a week later, but now not even pretending that anything has changed other than that another week has been used up.