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 Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Chair, Committee on Exiting the European Union 9:41 am, 26th September 2019

The House is grateful to the Minister for confirming that the Government will obey the law, but it should not need saying. The fact that the Minister is here today, having to answer these questions is a sign of the anxiety felt on both sides of the House and by many people in the country about the way in which the Government are conducting this matter. The problem is that the Minister’s clear answer is not compatible with the answer that the Prime Minister gave yesterday evening to my hon. Friend Ian Murray. I want to read the exchange. My hon. Friend asked:

“if he does not get a deal or a no deal through this House by 19 October”— those are the two conditions to meet that mean that he would not have to write the letter—

“will he seek an extension to 31 January from the European Union?

The Prime Minister: No.”—[Official Report, 25 September 2019;
Vol. 664, c. 821.]

How on earth can what the Minister has said, in good faith—and I have great respect for him—possibly be reconciled with what the Prime Minister said to the House of Commons last night?