Ministers must call for Brexit delay in event of no deal, say MPs
Ministers should push for an extension to the Brexit process to avoid Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal, a powerful Commons committee has said.
The Brexit Committee said that “even under the most optimistic outcome” of a withdrawal agreement being struck in October, there may still not be enough time to tie up all the loose ends by 29 March, 2019 - the exit day agreed in the Article 50 process.
In a hard-hitting report, the cross-party group also say MPs should have five days to debate the final deal before having a meaningful vote on it in the Commons.
And if Parliament rejects the agreement, MPs should also be allowed to vote again on the outcome of any renegotiations carried out by the Prime Minister.
"The terms of Article 50 mean that, without an extension of Article 50 negotiations by the UK and the EU27, the UK is due to exit the EU on 29 March 2019 with or without an agreement," their report said.
They said ministers should seek a "limited" extension if "substantive" areas are still to be agreed on.
The push will mount fresh pressure on the Government, just a week after ministers successfully compromised with Tory rebel Dominic Grieve, after he tabled an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill seeking to give Parliament the power to block a no deal Brexit.
As it stands MPs will get a meaningful vote if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, however it will be the Commons Speaker who rules on whether any Government motion on the deal was amendable.
Elsewhere the committee said the Government should secure a mechanism that could extend the transition agreement that comes in to place on exit day, and it should clarify how legal provision will be made for any backstop customs solution for Northern Ireland.
TIME 'NOT ON OUR SIDE'
The Committee Chair, Hilary Benn MP, said: “It is now more than two years since the referendum and the Government has yet to agree on the customs arrangements it wants with our biggest, nearest and most important trading partner.
“We are told that most of the work on the Withdrawal Agreement is done, but the remaining issues represent some of the toughest questions the Prime Minister must grasp, and negotiations on the future partnership have yet to start in earnest.
“Time is not on our side. The Bank of England is now adding to calls from business and unions for ‘pace and urgency’ in the Brexit negotiations, saying ‘material risks’ remain. This follows public warnings about the implications of a hard Brexit from firms such as Airbus and BMW.
“While the Cabinet continues to run down the clock as it tries to agree on a plan, it would be unconscionable if the House of Commons was not provided with the time and opportunity both for the fullest debate and to enable a clear expression of its opinion on the most significant decision our country has faced in a generation.”
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said on behalf of pro-EU group Best for Britain: "This report shows how badly the Government have botched Brexit.
"I believe that extending Article 50 will not only increase business uncertainty but it will throw massive volatility into our economy, right at a moment we do not need it.
“But what is crystal clear is the Government are creating a total car crash and a bad Brexit deal or no deal are just not acceptable.
"It is time for the Government to admit defeat and put this back to the people."