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European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:47 pm on 25th March 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Barclay Stephen Barclay The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 9:47 pm, 25th March 2019

We are in danger of rerunning the opening of the debate. Indeed, the shadow Brexit Secretary asked whether the Government would give a binding commitment to respect and adopt whatever was passed, even though the Opposition, who made that request, were not willing to give that commitment. We cannot give a blank cheque when we do not know exactly what those votes will be—I am sure that, when the Father of the House was a Minister, he would have taken the same line.

The real issue is the constitutional significance of amendment (a) because it is unprecedented in its nature. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has already addressed the kernel of the matter, which is whether the Government will make time available this week. Indeed, he set out at the beginning of the debate that, in good faith, we will have discussions with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset, Opposition Front Benchers and Members from across the House on how the process should look. Amendment (a) does not set that out in detail, so the Government have undertaken to have that process and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster addressed that in his opening remarks.

On amendment (f), I reassure the right hon. Member for Derby South that the Government will return to the Dispatch Box in the event that the withdrawal agreement is not approved this week. We will also return to the House to consider plans for the week of 5 April after any indicative voting. As the right hon. Lady will know as a senior Member of the House, the decision on whether to enter recess is in the control of the House. Although we do not think it is sensible to try to set the Order Paper now for a date in two weeks’ time without knowing what will happen in the interim, I hope that she is content that the House will certainly have a say on the matter.