I think that that advice was very important. The job of the civil service is to attempt to do everything it can and strain every sinew to deliver the will of the Government of the day. The fact that Sir Mark Sedwill has given such advice shows quite how seriously that is taken. It is particularly significant that Sir Mark is also the Government’s national security adviser and the former permanent secretary at the Home Office: he will be well aware of the security and policing issues that we face.
I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister has tabled this motion as a result of the Bill that we passed, which is now an Act. I think it shows that the Cabinet has taken that advice seriously, but also that Parliament as a whole has consistently opposed the damage and the chaos that no deal would cause. That is why we have reached this point, and it is why we should now support an extension. The purpose of the motion is to provide that parliamentary safeguard and a legal underpinning for the Prime Minister’s negotiations, so that she is not under pressure to slip backwards from the course she has decided upon.
We are here because the Prime Minister ran down the clock. She put forward a motion in December, although it was clear even then that her deal would be rejected, and then pulled the vote the first time. Instead of reaching out at that point, she simply ran down the clock, using the threat of an imminent deadline to try to force decisions. She has tried that process of brinkmanship in decision making repeatedly, but it simply has not worked. I just think that approach, like a continuing game of chicken, is a really bad way to make decisions. We have heard different concerns from different perspectives on the Prime Minister’s deal, but none of the assurances get any better simply because it is 10 minutes to midnight. Running down the clock was the wrong way to address those concerns. It would have been far better to have the kinds of debates and conversations that have now started in order to try to find a way forward. This is incredibly frustrating for people across the country, who are tearing their hair out about the way this has all happened. We should be honest about that. That is why we all have a responsibility to come together and try to find a way forward. The problem is that there are different views about different kinds of Brexit, and about different ways of reaching public consensus and consent. We have to be honest about those different views, tease them out and debate them, rather than thinking that the ticking clock will provide all the solutions.