European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:42 pm on 3rd April 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 6:42 pm, 3rd April 2019

It is a real pleasure to follow Antoinette Sandbach, who has been one of the voices of sanity from the Government Benches throughout this debacle. Others, I am afraid, are living in cloud cuckoo land if they still believe that no deal will not be a disaster for the economy of these islands.

My constituency has the second biggest financial sector in the United Kingdom; two major universities, Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh Napier; and many businesses, small and large, which are concerned about the impact of a no-deal Brexit. And of course my constituents did not vote for Brexit at all: 72% of them voted to remain in the European Union.

I therefore support the general principle of the Bill. It has some serious shortcomings, but it is all that we have at the moment—our only insurance policy against a no-deal Brexit. I would have preferred to have seen something with far more teeth in it, such as my proposal on Monday, and I have a number of questions about the Bill that have yet to be answered.

I am worried that the Bill does not say when the Prime Minister has to ask for an extension of time. The European Council is next Wednesday, but the Bill does not state specifically whether she has to ask before then or on the day. What happens if the European Council gives us an extension with conditions attached, such as with a longer extension? Or what happens if the Prime Minister will not contemplate extending beyond 22 May when Parliament has forced her to ask for a longer extension? The Bill seems to imply that she could sit on her hands. The Bill is ripe for a bit of amendment, and the SNP will certainly table some if we get to that stage.