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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (PROGRAMME)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:48 pm on 22nd October 2019.

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Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 6:48 pm, 22nd October 2019

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Let me say in response how welcome it is—even joyful—that, for the first time in this long saga, this House has accepted its responsibilities, come together and embraced a deal. I congratulate Members across the House on the scale of our collective achievement. Just a few weeks ago, hardly anybody believed that we could reopen the withdrawal agreement, let alone abolish the backstop, and certainly nobody thought that we could secure the approval of the House for a new deal. We should not overlook the significance of this moment. I pay particular tribute to those Members of the House who were sceptical and who had difficulties and doubts, but who decided to place the national interest ahead of any other consideration.

However, I must express my disappointment that the House has again voted for delay, rather than a timetable that would have guaranteed that the UK was in a position to leave the EU on 31 October with a deal. We now face further uncertainty, and the EU must now make up their minds about how to answer Parliament’s request for a delay. The first consequence is that the Government must take the only responsible course and accelerate our preparations for a no-deal outcome. Secondly, however, I will speak to EU member states about their intentions and, until they have reached a decision, we will pause this legislation.

Let me be clear: our policy remains that we should not delay and that we should leave the EU on 31 October. That is what I will say to the EU, and I will report back to the House. One way or another, we will leave the EU with this deal, to which this House has just given its assent, and I thank Members across the House for that hard-won agreement.