Leaving the European Union — [David Hanson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:34 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 5:34 pm, 4th February 2019

We will come to that shortly.

When she is questioned, the Prime Minister just keeps hitting the repeat button. She knows it is nonsense and, what is worse, she knows that everybody knows she knows it is nonsense. It did not have to be like this. Patrick Grady has highlighted the original drafting of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. There was provision for multiple exit days for multiple purposes, which was sensible. It was the Government’s proposal.

However, to throw some red meat to those whom the Chancellor described as the Brexit “extremists” of the European Research Group, the Government fixed 29 March on the face of the Bill for all purposes. It was a gimmick, and a time-consuming and irresponsible one. The Opposition told the Prime Minister that it was a legislative straitjacket and that the Act would have to be amended. We tried to help her out, and tabled amendments to that effect, but the Government rejected them. They rejected proposals that would have given Parliament control over the dates.

The Prime Minister is now preparing to return to Brussels, following last week’s vote. The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam talks about the EU giving some flexibility. Let us just remember what the Prime Minister is returning to do. She is going to ask the EU 27 to change the backstop that they did not want, but that she pressed them hard to accept. The backstop is a UK Government proposal. We can imagine their bewilderment when, having conceded it when pressed by the Prime Minister, they will face her telling them “You know that backstop? We have got to change it.”