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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

As I said, we cannot anticipate the business in two weeks’ time, but we have given a signal from the Dispatch Box on behalf of the Government about our position.

Let me turn to amendment (d) in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. The shadow Brexit Secretary said that many Members want to break the current deadlock, yet his amendment raises no objection to the withdrawal agreement and, as he well knows, it is the withdrawal agreement, not the political declaration, that needs to be approved to meet the tests that the European Council set for an extension to 22 May. He went on to criticise the Government for not giving a commitment to be bound by any indicative votes, yet, as I pointed out earlier, when the Father of the House challenged the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras on that very issue, he was unable to give such a commitment for Her Majesty’s Opposition to be bound in that way. Indeed, despite many of his own Members pressing for free votes from the Government in respect of those votes, he was again unwilling to give such a commitment on behalf of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition’s amendment notes that the Government’s deal has been defeated, but it is silent on the fact that his own deal has also been rejected by the House.

Regardless of any other votes, if the House does not approve the withdrawal agreement this week, it risks a longer extension, potentially resulting in Brexit being revoked, at odds with the Government’s manifesto. The uncertainty of any longer extension would be bad for business confidence and investments. It would also have lasting implications for our democracy, including our reputation around the world as a country that respects the votes of its citizens.

If this House can find the resolve, we could be out of the European Union in a matter of weeks. This is the ultimate mandate: the one handed to us by the British people; the one that reflects the manifestos that the Labour party, as well as the Conservative party, stood on. The Prime Minister’s deal is the way to deliver what the people voted for in 2016 and 2017. That is why it is right that the Government maintain control of the Order Paper, in line with constitutional convention, and why the amendments this evening should be defeated.