European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:13 pm on 4th September 2019.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Chair, Committee on Exiting the European Union 3:13 pm, 4th September 2019

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I want to say at the start that every Member of this House, whatever view they hold on the fundamental political question before us, is trying, as they see best, to act in the national interest and in the interests of their constituents. The problem—the reason why we are here today—is, of course, that each of us has a slightly different view of what those best interests are.

I recognise that we have only a very short amount of time in which to debate this Bill. Let me respond on that point by quoting—I can do no better—Sir Oliver Letwin, who said:

“it can only be done at high speed, because there is no time left.—[Official Report, 3 April 2019;
Vol. 657, c. 1065.]

Wherever we stand on this issue, we know there is very little time left, and following the decision on Prorogation, there is even less time than would have been available previously. Therefore, I hope that, recognising that we have strongly held views, we will treat each other with respect and consideration during this debate.

The purpose of the Bill is simple: to ensure that the United Kingdom does not leave the European Union on 31 October without an agreement. The Bill has wide cross-party support; may I say that it is a great pleasure to be just above Alistair Burt on the list of names? The Bill is backed by Members who have very different views on how the matter of Brexit should be finally resolved, including Members who until very recently were senior members of the Cabinet. People could describe this as a somewhat unlikely alliance, but what unites us is a conviction that there is no mandate for no deal, and that the consequences for the economy and for our country would be highly damaging. Those supporting the Bill believe that no deal is not in the national interest.