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Article 50 Extension

Part of Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (Eligibility) – in the House of Commons at 5:21 pm on 20th March 2019.

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Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire 5:21 pm, 20th March 2019

Time is really short. I am just going to finish now.

The two main parties need to think about this. If there is any sort of extension beyond next week, it will be disastrous for candidates in the Conservative cause and, I think, disastrous for candidates in the Labour cause. The first 100 seats the Labour party has to win are 78 for leave, 73 strongly for leave.

This is an issue where the integrity of the idea of voting is absolutely at stake. Given that the Labour party is not going to vote for the withdrawal agreement and people like me are not going to vote for it—handing over the power to make law to 27 countries, a position where there is no manner in which a sovereign independent UK could leave, and a proposal that breaks up the United Kingdom and creates something appalling called UK(NI) is not acceptable to me—the only solution is to leave with no deal, which is the law of the land. As Mr Barnier said in his statement last night, the vote has not changed that.

I know this is not a popular view, looking around the Chamber at those who are present today, but talk from Opposition Members about crashing out is, bluntly, lazy. Ask why. I have been to Dover twice in the past three weeks. We have had discussions with those in Calais, including Mr Puissesseau, and they all say that they are prepared. The Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend Chris Heaton-Harris, answering an urgent question earlier, gave some very confident answers. Numerous statutory instruments, many of which I have sat on, have gone through. We have Mr Barnier saying that there are only two more issues, one of which is the budget which is really not going to touch on Brexit, that have to be sorted. So I appeal to Members that hiding behind the mantra of “crashing out” is lazy.

There may be hiccups. There was a lot of preparation for the millennium bug. We had the exactly the same thing: virtually every business was prepared; they just thought that other businesses had not prepared. That may well be the case on this occasion. The damage from a bit of disruption is far less than the huge damage and the risk of populism should we thwart the wishes of the 17.4 million people.