Duties in connection with Article 50 extension

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 8:45 pm, 3rd April 2019

The motion cannot be carried until 12 April at the earliest. That means that the Prime Minister is obliged at some stage to seek an extension, but she is not obliged to do so immediately. Unless she does so on 12 April and it is agreed before 11 pm that day, the United Kingdom is out. It will be “Leave, leave, leave, leave.”

Clause 1(6) and (7) are I suppose intended to deal with a situation where the European Council meets on 10 April and seems to volunteer to offer an extension to a certain date. I mentioned earlier—perhaps in a point of order—the role of the European Council in all this. The reality is that the procedure being followed puts the ball back in the European Council’s court. It is possible that nobody will be sensible enough to veto this extension, although they have the power to do so and I trust that one or other of them, or perhaps several, will.

My objection to this arrangement is contained in the European Scrutiny Committee report we put forward last March—a whole year and one month ago. We raised grave concern because the European Council, which is driving a lot of the negotiations, set out the terms of reference and the guidelines and the sequencing. The fact is that the Government gave in on all that and supplicated and went along on bended knee to the European Council and asked, “How much can you possibly let us get away with? What can we be allowed to do that you will agree with?” There were also all the monstrous negotiations conducted by Olly Robbins, who appeared in front of my Committee, and Tim Barrow and others. The reality is that submitting ourselves under this Bill to the decision-making processes and the cosh of the European Council is not only completely humiliating to this country, but has put us in an impossible situation under the withdrawal agreement.

Article 4 of the agreement—which is directly relevant to everything we are discussing here because it is about the governance of the European Union in relation to the UK on leaving—stipulates in terms of the UK that we will be subjugated to the decision making of the Council of Ministers.

I hope somebody on the Opposition Front Bench will take this on board. The Council of Ministers will be making laws for probably up to four years, when this House, as I said the other day, will be politically castrated in relation to the European treaties, which will have entire competence over us and all laws. We will not be able to pass a single law in contravention of them, and our courts will not be able to defend our voters—our taxpayers—from any of the decisions taken while we are put at the mercy of our competitors during the transitional period, however long that may be.

I have already made the point that the transitional period could cost £90 billion; I do not know the sum, because we do not know what date will be settled on yet. What I do know is that this House will be subjugated—completely neutralised—in the transitional period. I see that the Minister is shaking his head. I invite him to appear in front of my Select Committee and answer on that; I would like to cross-examine him on the question of who will be governing this country during that period, because it certainly will not be this Parliament, I can tell him that.