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 Steven Baker Steven Baker Conservative, Wycombe 9:15 pm, 8th April 2019

May I begin by saying how pleased I was to learn, when my hon. Friend Sir William Cash mentioned the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017, that so many Opposition Members voted for that Act on the basis that they took on trust the success of a Conservative Prime Minister? I am pleased that they have so much confidence in us. When they voted for that Act, they either did or did not know the terms of article 50. If they did know the terms, then they voted to leave the European Union potentially without a withdrawal agreement; and if they did not, then clearly they were ignorant of one of the most important matters of the moment. Perhaps instead they were just voting for short-term political expediency. In any event, it is not very credible for Members now to be panicking and seeking to overturn what they previously legislated for, with great care and over a considerable period of time.

I turn my attention to Lords amendment 5, which I find rather surprising, because it seeks to restore the prerogative to the Government, provided they seek a long extension. Of course, this House resoundingly defeated the Government on that very point. I am therefore very pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone has tabled amendment (a) in lieu of Lords amendment 5, to rule out European elections. It states:

“No extension of the period under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union may be agreed by the Prime Minister if as a result the United Kingdom would be required to prepare for or to hold elections to the European Parliament.”

This House united around what was known as the Brady amendment, to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements. I cannot think how many times I and other Members have tabled the so-called Malthouse compromise, to limit the implementation period, replace the backstop and, in the latest incarnation, get rid of the single customs territory. We have tried and tried to give the Government the way to get a deal.