Brexit: Article 50 Period Extension Procedure - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:59 pm on 18th March 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 6:59 pm, 18th March 2019

My Lords, as I was saying, I think that the Speaker in the other place will tonight be a national hero for stopping this Government prolonging their manipulative games playing and making a mockery of parliamentary sovereignty. Over the weekend we heard attempts by the Attorney-General to claim that Article 62 of the Vienna convention could be invoked to get out of the backstop early and that this was a substantive change. That has been shot down by all good legal opinion.

MPs have already had two votes on Mrs May’s deal, having been permitted to reassess the information on Brexit and update their views. If the Prime Minister had had her way, it would have been three or four votes. Meanwhile, the voters are denied even one opportunity for a rethink. So is it not finally time to allow the people to have the same opportunity for review and reassessment that MPs and the Government are permitting themselves? This weekend a poll showed that almost six in 10—57% of voters—wanted that opportunity.

Any extension sought under Article 50 must be for a democratic purpose, which does not mean only the European Parliament elections. It is as clear as day that the most legitimate purpose must be for a people’s vote, and that the extension sought must be long enough to facilitate the holding of such a vote, with an option to stay in the EU on the ballot paper. It is rumoured that the Government will seek a nine-month extension. Can the Minister confirm whether that is true?