Kwasi Kwarteng: The Prime Minister set out a series of votes that took place last week. We all know the results of those votes. At the end of the process, in the final vote on the Thursday, the result was roughly 420 against 202. The House voted by two to one to extend article 50, and that is what the Prime Minister has said she will do. We have a parliamentary democracy, and the Prime Minister very clearly...
Kwasi Kwarteng: I would love to do that, but my hon. Friend knows that the way to have done so would have been to vote for the deal so that we could have left on the required date. If the extension is two years, of course I cannot rule out the possibility that these elections might be held, because my understanding is that it is a matter of law that we should have representation in that Parliament.
Kwasi Kwarteng: I will give a blunt and simple answer. We will have a debate next week when the SI is determined, then there will be a—[Interruption.] That is exactly what the process will be. The hon. Lady knows that as well as I do.
Kwasi Kwarteng: I know that my hon. Friend is a passionate believer in Brexit, but it has been very clear from the events last week that there is no majority in this House for leaving without a deal. The Prime Minister and her Government believe that we should take some instruction from the House to take no deal off the table, and that is what happened.
Kwasi Kwarteng: In my brief time as a Minister, I have been very clear about the way to get out of the mess. The obvious way was to vote for the deal—a reasonable deal. The Opposition voted it down and now they turn around and have the effrontery to say, “What shall we do?” They have been totally negative. That is exactly why I have calmly set out the next steps for the extension of article 50.
Kwasi Kwarteng: That ball is now rolling, I am afraid. My right hon. Friend is still trying to expand on the fantasy of no deal, but no deal has been taken off the table by this House, and that is why we are talking about extending article 50.
Kwasi Kwarteng: As I have said, in a spirit of optimism, I still believe that there is a chance—perhaps a slim chance—that the meaningful vote will go through. People can scoff and laugh, but I still believe that. In the event that it does not go through, we will have to ask for an extension, then the SI will be laid before the House. There will be ample debate next week on what the House might wish to...
Kwasi Kwarteng: My hon. Friend knows the procedures of this House as well as I do. As I said in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois), that is a matter for the business managers. My right hon. Friend, as a former Whip, knows exactly how time is allocated in this House, and this is not something that I can opine on from the Dispatch Box.
Kwasi Kwarteng: The hon. Lady asks me to speculate about the contents of the Prime Minister’s letter, and I am not in a position to do that. That will be revealed in the course of the week, I suppose. As for the debate on the SI, we will have ample opportunity to discuss the purpose of any extension.
Kwasi Kwarteng: It is self-evident: in that case, we would leave on 29 March with no deal, because that is what the EU would have forced us to do.
Kwasi Kwarteng: I am unsure what the hon. Gentleman is referring to as being amendable. The motion will or may well be amendable with respect to—[Interruption.] A motion on 25 March will be amendable if we have another vote, but my understanding is that the SI will not be amendable. With respect to conversations that the Leader of the House may or may not have had, I have no idea what she has been saying...
Kwasi Kwarteng: My hon. Friend has done good work on that amendment, and we have worked hard to try to incorporate some of that thinking into the withdrawal agreement. That process is ongoing.
Kwasi Kwarteng: I thank the hon. Lady for her concern about my answers. They were actually produced after Mr Speaker spoke—[Interruption.] Things move very fast in this place, as she knows. It is not currently our intention to have indicative votes, and I cannot be clearer about that. However, we are going to lay an SI to extend the article 50 period, and I have said that many times.
Kwasi Kwarteng: If my hon. Friend is asking me whether the timeframe is short, of course it is short. However, as I have said many times, the House voted last week to extend the article 50 process, and the Government will have to table an SI in order to do that. However, that has to be done after the March EU Council meeting, which takes place on 21 and 22 March. That is the logic behind the timetable.
Kwasi Kwarteng: As I have repeated many times, we have a process, and this urgent question is all about the process, which I have outlined. I know that people are saying that this is impossible, but if the meaningful vote goes through, we will ask for a short extension to get the necessary legislation through. If it does not go through, we will ask for a longer extension. In both scenarios, we would have to...
Kwasi Kwarteng: I am delighted that my hon. Friend sees the world the way I do. In fact, the Government’s choice would have been to get the withdrawal agreement through the House and then leave on 29 March, but the House had other ideas and the deal was voted down, so we are now seeking to extend the process. I happen to think that the meaningful vote could get through—maybe next week, but who knows?...
Kwasi Kwarteng: We have in fact had many votes on SNP amendments to revoke article 50—
Kwasi Kwarteng: Or amendments to have a second referendum and all the rest of it. It is therefore unlikely that such a motion would get through the House, and it is not the Government’s intention to revoke article 50. As I have said, there is the meaningful vote—the deal—and we will then get a short extension, but if we vote it down, it will be a longer extension.
Kwasi Kwarteng: I cannot stress enough how interested I am in the fact that the hon. Gentleman does not feel that we have set out a plan for an extension. I mentioned the SI that would be laid next week, and I set out that there would be a debate. The Government listened to the House last week, and we are committed to extending article 50, as I said in my initial answer.
Kwasi Kwarteng: In respect of no deal, the House has made its voice very clear. In respect of extending article 50, the House, once again, has made its voice very clear and the Government have responded to that. That is why we are going to ask—I could not be clearer—for an extension of article 50. The debate is about how long that will be. I still hope there will be a deal, in which case we will ask for...