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Compliance with the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:41 am on 26th September 2019.

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Photo of Ian Murray Ian Murray Labour, Edinburgh South 9:41 am, 26th September 2019

In the same tone, I would like to say to my hon. Friend—we have been on many delegations together—that we should treat one another with respect across the House. I would also like to say, in the same spirit as your opening remarks, Mr Speaker, that I stand in front of the shield of Jo Cox and I hope that today this Parliament could have a little bit more respect—not just for one another and Parliament, but for the public as well.

Mr Speaker, thank you for granting this urgent question. The European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act was passed by the House and given Royal Assent by Her Majesty the Queen on Monday 9 September, brought in the names of my right hon. Friend Hilary Benn and Alistair Burt. That Act clearly says that the Prime Minister must seek an extension to article 50 to 31 January if the Prime Minister is unable to meet one of the two conditions of either having a withdrawal deal passed by this House, or having an affirmative vote by this House to back no deal.

The Minister said in his opening response that there was a range of options. That is the only range of options in that Bill—to pass a deal, to pass no deal, or subsequently to seek an extension. The Supreme Court decision this week, and the statement in this House followed by questioning of the Prime Minister yesterday, were a national embarrassment. Under any other political equilibrium, this Prime Minister would have seriously considered his position as Prime Minister, and potentially resigned from it. Many people have lost their jobs in government for a fraction of what this Prime Minister has done over the last two weeks.

Yesterday the Attorney General, at that Dispatch Box, during the urgent question tabled by my hon. and learned Friend Joanna Cherry, said clearly, in answer to a question by my hon. Friend Nick Boles, that he would abide by the law of the EU (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. He said that with uncharacteristic clarity when he said simply, “Yes” in response to that question. Last night, the hon. Members for North East Fife (Stephen Gethins) and for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) and many others pressed the Prime Minister to make the same commitment. He did not give the same commitment in this House. And under questioning from myself, very late in the sitting last night, when I asked whether he would fully comply with the provisions of the Act, should he not get a deal through this House, or an affirmative vote for no deal, by 19 October, the Prime Minister answered with one word: he answered, “No.”

I have tabled this urgent question, first, to seek clarity; and secondly, to ask the Minister, in all good faith, to tell us, which he has not done yet, what the Prime Minister meant when he said “No”, because frankly, and with reference to my earlier remarks about respect across this House, I am sure that there are very few people in this House, and very few people in this country, given the events of the last few weeks, who trust the words of the Prime Minister, even when said from that Dispatch Box. The Prime Minister used—[Interruption.] The Prime Minister used, in a direct answer to my question, the word “no”, so I have several questions to ask the Minister, and with this new level of respect I hope he is able to answer them directly.

What does the Prime Minister intend to do if he does not get a deal through this House by 19 October or an affirmative vote for no deal? That is question No. 1.