Duties in connection with Article 50 extension

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 9:30 pm, 3rd April 2019

I will not repeat the general points I made on Second Reading, but I want to briefly outline the Opposition’s views on the amendments.

We will obviously support amendments 13 and 14, which are helpful drafting amendments, and will vote for clauses 1 and 2 to stand part of the Bill. We will support the Government’s new clause 13 with a clarification from the Minister. Normally we would support the affirmative procedure, but we accept the Government’s reasoning in this case, given the fast-moving situation and the need to ensure consistency between EU and UK law. We will support the new clause subject to an assurance from the Minister now that if one of the principal Opposition parties prays against the statutory instrument, the Government will urgently facilitate a debate on the Floor of the House.

We will oppose all the other amendments. Let me explain briefly why. Amendments 20 and 1 and new clause 5 seek to impose different dates. We should have learned from the withdrawal Act that putting exit dates in statute denies the flexibility we might need, and those amendments are clearly designed to frustrate the Bill’s objectives. We oppose amendment 21 because we believe it is right for the Government to come back to the House if the EU offers a different date. We oppose Government amendment 22 because it undermines the purpose of the Bill in relation to parliamentary approval to seek or agree an extension.

We oppose amendment 6 because it is designed to frustrate the process and, as Members have pointed, the Northern Ireland Assembly is not sitting. We oppose new clause 4 because it would limit Parliament’s opportunity to shape decisions. I am surprised that, after his lengthy contribution, Sir William Cash is not here to hear our views on these points.

We oppose new clause 7 because it seeks to put a date in the Bill without saying so. It puts the cart before the horse. We should determine what extension we need and then deal with the consequences—even if that means elections, although that is not ideal—and not limit ourselves in that way. If we need a longer extension, we will presumably want the UK to have a voice in EU institutions—not simply the Parliament, but the Council and the Commission—and a judge in the Court of Justice. On that basis, we oppose that new clause and the other amendments that I have identified.