Duties in connection with Article 50 extension

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:15 pm on 8th April 2019.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Chair, Committee on Exiting the European Union 9:15 pm, 8th April 2019

The Prime Minister will accept an extension because she has asked for one. It is the existence of this Bill that has led her, in advance of the Bill being approved by the House, to write to the President of the European Council seeking an extension, because twice, much to the unhappiness of certain Members on the Government side of the House, she has been faced with this choice: either to take the country over the edge of a no-deal cliff, or to apply for an extension.

The reason I think some Members are very cross about that—I accept that they are cross—is that on both occasions the Prime Minister, facing both this Bill and a revolt by her Ministers, decided to act in the national interest by making that application. I hope very much that on Wednesday the European Council will grant more time, because whatever one thinks about the Prime Minister’s deal, one thing is clear: a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for our country. That is why I hope the House will vote for the Bill tonight.