European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:53 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Barclay Stephen Barclay The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 6:53 pm, 3rd April 2019

It is not usually my practice to quote from The Guardian, but I suspect that it is the right hon. Gentleman’s newspaper of choice. We all remember its front-page headline, “No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No”—it was quoted by many EU leaders—because this House failed to agree on the various options.

The Prime Minister has sought to compromise. Indeed, part of the challenge she has had with her deal is the fact that people on both wings of the debate feel that it is too much of a compromise. She has sought to compromise in the national interest, reflecting the fact, as Members have said, that 48% of the public did not vote to leave. That is why she reached out to the Leader of the Opposition, but for several weeks he refused to meet her. Indeed, he even refused to meet just because Chuka Umunna happened to be in the room, which was apparently beyond the pale. I am pleased that today I was able to join the Prime Minister at a meeting with the Leader of the Opposition.

The fact that the House has consistently voted for what it is against, rather than what it is for, and indeed its decision on Friday not to approve the withdrawal agreement, is the very essence of running down the clock, because it waived our right to an extension to 22 May and therefore allowed an extension only to 12 April. It is very odd for Tom Brake, having voted for that reduction in time, now to complain about it.

We are passing the Bill in haste and do not have adequate time to debate it in the manner that I would like us to—there is only one minute left on the clock. There are problems with the speed of its passage, the constitutional principle of it and the way it will interact with any decision reached by the Council that differs from the earlier decision taken by the House. I hope that the constitutional experts in the other place will address some of the Bill’s flaws. It is because of those defects that the Government will oppose the Bill, and I urge Members to oppose this defective Bill.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time.