European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill

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

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Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright Conservative, Kenilworth and Southam 4:13 pm, 4th September 2019

Perhaps I can start by agreeing with something that others have said, which is that, regardless of one’s views on this subject, Hilary Benn, my right hon. Friend Alistair Burt and others who spoken in this debate are acting the national interest in bringing up these issues in the way that they do. They do not deserve to be name-called as a result. Having said that, however, I disagree with the Bill.

The Bill does three things: it sets out that the Government should get specific parliamentary authority for any deal they negotiate; it sets out that they should get specific authority for any exit from the EU without a deal; and it sets out that, failing either of those, they should enact a three-month further extension in our departure from the EU. I am afraid that my view is that the first two of those are unnecessary and the third is undesirable. In two and a half minutes, I will try to explain why.

On the first, it seems to me that our existing procedures allow for the Government to bring forward any deal that they negotiate, for us to approve it or not. It would be an international treaty, and the processes are already in place for us to do that.

Secondly, in relation to a no-deal outcome, what the right hon. Member for Leeds Central and colleagues have put forward is on the premise that there is no mandate for no deal. It is certainly true that the leave campaign in the 2016 referendum did not advocate no deal. That was not its preference and, as I understand it, that is still not the Government’s preference, but nor was it put to the electorate that we would leave only if there was a deal with the EU. That could never have been guaranteed. There was no pattern to follow and no example for us to look at, and it could never have been certain that the EU would put forward a proposal that we found acceptable. Indeed, some of us who argued for remain in the referendum campaign said, “If you decide to leave, you take a leap in the dark. You cannot know what the future will look like and you cannot know what, if any, deal we will be offered by the EU or by anyone else.” The electorate, as it was their absolute right to do, listened to those arguments, rejected them and decided to leave anyway. It was their decision to make and, in my view, they were perfectly entitled to make it.