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 Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 9:41 am, 26th September 2019

The Act that was passed three weeks ago is very simple. If by 19 October the Prime Minister has not got a deal through and has not secured the agreement of the House to no deal, he must seek the extension in the terms that are set out in the Act. It is very simple.

It is true that the terms of the letter that the Prime Minister must write were set out in a schedule, as was the duty to accept the extension that the EU agrees. Those were not in the previous version of the Act, which was passed in April, because there was a consensus that the then Prime Minister would comply with the law, understood the rule of law and could be trusted, and it was therefore not necessary to put them in the Act. They are in the Act now because, I am afraid to say—and this is a low point in our history—across the House those assumptions no longer hold, and the answers given by the Prime Minister last night, and his behaviour, make that less likely.

If the Prime Minister genuinely wanted to get a deal through the House, he would not have divided the House in the way that he did yesterday. That is not the behaviour of a man who is trying to unite the House so that it can come together around a deal. The role of the Prime Minister is to unite the country. This Prime Minister is whipping up division, and I have not seen that from any Prime Minister in my lifetime.

There is a very simple, non-hypothetical question, and a precise question. If a deal has not been passed by the House by 19 October and there has been no agreement in the House to no deal, will the Prime Minister comply with the law by asking for the extension, given that that is what the Act requires? Let me make clear that if he does not do so, this will be enforced in the courts, and we will take collective action in the House to do whatever is necessary to make him comply with the law.