I shall be brief, as this briefest of Committee stages demands. The Government continue to oppose the Bill, but given that it has reached Committee, I will speak to the Government amendments.
As the Secretary of State set out earlier, the Government have no choice but to improve the Bill and limit its most damaging effects. Our amendment 22 addresses the dangerous and perhaps unintended constitutional precedent that could be set by the Bill, which calls into question the Government’s ability to seek and agree an extension with the European Union using the royal prerogative. It is a well-established constitutional principle that Heads of Government are able to enter into international agreements without preconditions set by the House that constrain their ability to negotiate in the national interest. The Government’s authority in this matter must not be undermined, as the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend George Eustice said.
Exit day in international and domestic law is
Amendment 22 protects the Government’s ability to reach agreement with the EU on the extension of article 50, and I must remind the House that any extension must be agreed jointly between the UK and the EU. I am concerned about the restrictions that the Bill as currently drafted seeks to impose. I understand that earlier drafts of the Bill contained a provision very similar to the one that the Government are putting forward in this amendment. In her summing up, could Yvette Cooper address the reasons why that was taken out?
The Government amendment simply seeks to clarify the position on the royal prerogative, ensuring that nothing in the Bill could prevent the Government from being able to seek and agree an extension of article 50, which I believe is what supporters of the Bill actually want. It is also the hoped-for outcome of the process of talks that have been taking place between the Government and the Opposition, so that we can agree the shortest possible extension to leave with a deal. For those reasons, I urge hon. Members across the House to support the amendment.
To move on to Government new clause 13, I repeat that we have tabled our amendments not because we support the Bill, but because we feel it is important, given that we are in Committee, to improve the Bill and to limit its most damaging effects. Again, the new process created in the Bill means that we could be timed out and that no extension could be agreed. As I think Paul Blomfield accepted, the logic of the new clause is to remove the risks of an accidental no-deal situation.