In the House of Commons, Kier Starmer (Labour) requested and was granted an emergency debate on a motion to consider the matter of the length and purpose of the extension of the article 50 process requested by the Government. (Following Theresa May’s letter to Donald Tusk asking for an extension to the Article 50 period due to expire on 29 March 2019).
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing time to hear this application for an emergency debate on the following motion: that this House has considered the matter of the length and purpose of the extension of the article 50 process requested by the Government. I note that the Standing Order No. 24 procedure requires a specific and important matter to be before the House, and I think there can be few more important than this.
Last week, the House passed a motion by a majority of 210 requiring the Government to request an extension to the article 50 process. The Prime Minister voted for that motion. The wording of the motion itself and the speeches from the Government Dispatch Box, including by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, led the House to believe that the Government would seek either a short technical extension, if the Prime Minister’s deal were passed by today, or a longer extension if that were not the case.
Parliament could not have expected the Prime Minister, instead, to pursue a course described at the Dispatch Box by the Minister for the Cabinet Office as “downright reckless”, yet today we learn that is exactly what the Prime Minister intends to do. She has now made a formal request to the President of the European Council for an extension of article 50, but she has not made a statement to this House.
Therefore, the only opportunity for Parliament to debate this issue before the Council meets tomorrow is through this Standing Order No. 24 application. It is vital that the Prime Minister and the Government are held to account on this and that we have an opportunity to scrutinise the Government’s approach, to consider the terms of the extension that is being sought and to ask whether this approach abides by the will expressed by the House last week.
I therefore ask for this emergency debate to be held at the earliest opportunity.