My Lords, I support the noble Baroness’s amendment. She is clearly right, and I hope that will be accepted around the House. The drafting of the Bill treats the European Council’s response to the request for an extension as if it might take one of two forms, but in fact the position is not binary; there are three possibilities.
The first is that the Council will unconditionally agree to the extension. In that case, pursuant to the Bill, the Prime Minister is bound to accept that. The second possibility, which is different, is that the Council might agree to the extension until the end of January, subject to conditions that may or may not be acceptable to the Government and the people. That is not an unconditional agreement; it is a counter-offer. As a matter of law, a counter-offer destroys the initial offer, which no longer remains open for acceptance, and is a new offer that can either be accepted or not. It is that possibility which has been overlooked by the Bill as presently drafted. That is why the noble Baroness’s amendment is plainly right.
The third possibility is that the Council will make a different type of counter-offer, which is to propose an extension that ends on a different date. That is a separate type of counter-offer, and that, as the Bill is presently drafted, triggers the provision in subsection (3). The noble Baroness’s point, as I understand it, is that the second type of counter-offer should also fall under the scope of subsection (3). She is plainly correct.