Duties in connection with Article 50 extension

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:00 pm on 8th April 2019.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee 9:00 pm, 8th April 2019

I will not. I have given way already, and there is very little time. [Interruption.] I will not. I have given way many times.

As I was saying, Lords amendments 4 and 5 enable the Prime Minister to make decisions in the European Council subject to the date not being earlier than 22 May, to ensure that there is no legal uncertainty about the Council’s negotiations and decisions, and to ensure that we do not inadvertently end up with no deal as a result of confusion about the legal process.

I think that, taken together, the Lords amendments improve the Bill. I believe that the House should accept them and resist the Commons amendments, which would have a limiting effect and which would, in fact, conflict with the letter that the Prime Minister has already sent to the European Council. That would not be sensible.

Let me seek one further reassurance from the Minister, which has already been given in the other place. Given that Lords amendments 4 and 5 have been accepted in that place, there is some uncertainty about what might happen should the Prime Minister not achieve any agreement in the European Council deliberations. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that in those unusual and exceptional circumstances, which we hope will not arise, the Government would come back to the House immediately with a motion for debate, because obviously we would face the urgent possibility of leaving without a deal. As Ministers know, that has been comprehensively rejected by a huge majority in the House, and it would clearly be unacceptable for the Government simply to allow us to drift into no deal without tabling a further motion before we reach exit day.

These are, of course, unusual and unprecedented circumstances, and I know that there are strong feelings. However, I hope that we have been able to engage in our debates in a thoughtful and considered way. We have just an hour in which to discuss the amendments, and I want to ensure that all Members can express their views.