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European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:04 pm on 25th March 2019.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Chair, Committee on Exiting the European Union 8:04 pm, 25th March 2019

It is a great pleasure to follow Mr Grieve. Sir Nicholas Soames reminded us of the prayers that start each day. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman set out with a desire to please, but I think his speech certainly did please many of us in the House.

I rise to support amendments (a) and (f), which were moved in compelling speeches by my right hon. Friend Margaret Beckett and, in this context, my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin. We need to remember that we have this opportunity to debate those two amendments for two reasons and two reasons only. First, the Government’s deal was defeated for a second time. We are discussing a motion in neutral terms, and we would not have had the chance to do that had it not been for the efforts of the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield and many other people last summer. Secondly, the European Union decided to give us an additional two weeks.

The fundamental problem, however, has not changed, which is the Government’s inability to get their deal through. Indeed, they are so lacking in confidence about their ability to win a third time that we are not entirely sure whether and when they will bring it back before the House. That means that, if nothing changes in 17 days’ time, either we will leave with no deal or the Government will have to apply for—and be granted by the European Union—an extension. The moment of danger has been delayed briefly, but it has not passed.