Section 1 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019

Part of Exiting the European Union (Sanctions) – in the House of Commons at 5:03 pm on 9th April 2019.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 5:03 pm, 9th April 2019

Absolutely, and clearly an extension could be used for that purpose, or indeed for expanding on the process that is already taking place, with all the parties in this place—with the exception, I am afraid, of the DUP—working across parties to try to find a way forward. What the hon. Lady suggests could be part of that process.

The extension is not long enough for a people’s vote, which would probably require 20 weeks or thereabouts for planning and for campaigning, so we need an extension until September at the very least. I want to help the Prime Minister. She should accept the flextension that we hope will be offered to her tomorrow, because that will save her from embarrassment in the future. Members will recall that she said there would not be a general election, and then there was; that she was going to stand by the withdrawal agreement that she had spent months negotiating with the European Union, which she then did not; and that she said there would not be an extension to the article 50 period, and then there was. So she could save herself a lot of embarrassment by simply accepting that there is going to be a people’s vote, so a long extension is required to deliver one.

We are assuming, of course, and I think it is a safe assumption, that we will be granted an extension by the European Union, but if we are not, we need some clarity from Ministers as to what exactly will happen—what the next steps that the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Mr Walker, who is now in his place, referred to actually include. Will those next steps include, if we do not get an extension to the article 50 period, revoking article 50 by the end of this week? If the Minister wants to intervene to confirm that that is the case, he is welcome to do so. He has a frown on his face, but I think he is reflecting intensely on that.

I shall conclude by saying again that the Prime Minister must face up to the truth. She will need a long extension. She should grasp it tomorrow, to avoid humiliation a few weeks later when she would have to go and ask for it.