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European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:46 pm on 25th March 2019.

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Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Chair, National Security Strategy (Joint Committee) 7:46 pm, 25th March 2019

My right hon. Friend makes a powerful point, in line with the many contributions she has made on this issue. I will come to that in a moment.

The amendment guards against a no-deal withdrawal that lacks the clear and evident consent of the House. It also allows for the possibility of the House being in recess when such a danger arises and provides for the seeking of any necessary extension of the leaving deadline. I was originally very encouraged by the Prime Minister’s statement today, as my right hon. Friend said, that

“Unless this House agrees to it, no deal will not happen.”

That is what the amendment says, so my hope was that the Government might be prepared simply to accept it. That would seem the logical thing to do—I am giving the vehicle by which they can give effect to the statement that the Prime Minister made today.

I listened with care to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I think he said that, despite the fact that the Government are not taking any steps, as my right hon. Friend just pointed out, to prevent us from simply running out of time, the amendment was not necessary. He said the problem with my proposal was that there would be only two options left before the House, and the legal default would be that we leave without a deal. That is the point—that is why I tabled the amendment. Although I appreciated the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster’s explanation, I know that otherwise, we would leave by legal default without a deal. He agreed that the Government will need to come back to the Dispatch Box to deal with these issues. I suggest that the Ministers on the Front Bench pass on to their right hon. Friend that the very simple thing to do—it need take no time at all—is to accept this amendment and ensure that the House does not run the indefensible risk of stumbling out of the EU without a deal.