European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:12 pm on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union) 5:12 pm, 5th September 2019

The noble Lord is a distinguished businessman. I did not use the word “extra”; I said merely that remaining a member of the European Union will cost us roughly £1 billion net a month. That is the current membership fee. We pay in a lot more than we get out from the European Union in purely financial terms.

I said that the Bill would require the Prime Minister immediately to accept any offer made by the EU of an extension to 31 January 2020. If the EU offered—or, rather, instructed—a longer extension, whatever its date and regardless of its conditions, the PM would automatically have to accept it unless the House of Commons said no within two calendar days. The fact that the Bill mandates updates on the negotiations and Motions on those updates after 31 January 2020 and on a rolling 28-day basis, with no end date, means that it clearly envisages either a lengthy extension or possibly a string of extensions. This is a very poor piece of legislation.

If we pass the Bill, in our view there is no chance at all of renegotiating the deal before 31 October. It will completely undermine the Government’s negotiating position and the future talks that the Government and the EU have committed to. Parliament would then be left with three unpalatable options: first, to revoke Article 50 and overturn the results of the referendum; secondly, extension after extension, therefore failing to deliver on the will of the people over three and a half years after the referendum took place; or, thirdly, accepting the existing withdrawal agreement, which has of course been rejected three times in the other place.

Therefore, I say to noble Lords across this House that, if they wish to accept the democratic decision that the UK should leave the EU—I accept that some parties do not wish to accept that decision—and if they want to leave with a deal, then do not support this Bill. The Government remain committed—