Duties in connection with Article 50 extension

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:00 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Conservative, West Dorset 8:00 pm, 3rd April 2019

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s kind remarks, but I wonder whether he means to remove subsections (6) and (7). If we did not pass the Bill and the Prime Minister went to the European Council, as my hon. Friend envisages, with a request for something less than 30 June, and it said, which I think would not suit him, and might well not suit me, that there should be a 21-month extension, there would be nothing to prevent the Prime Minister accepting that, using the prerogative power. It would of course be necessary, as things stand, for the House to agree a statutory instrument changing the exit date in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to reconcile UK law with the position in international law, but the House would not have much choice about that, because we would be out of kilter with international law if we did not make the change, as we discovered when the original SI was made.

Of course, when the Prime Minister made the original application, she did not seek the approval of the House; she was able to make it, perfectly properly, under the prerogative power. If my hon. Friend removes subsections (6) and (7), the effect is not, as he might imagine, to stop the Prime Minister doing something that he would regard as a mischief—namely accepting then and there a very long extension—but to continue to enable her to do that.