Mark Pritchard calls on the Government to secure support for the Withdrawal Agreement from MPs first, before seeking a short extension from the EU, rather than asking the EU first resulting in the likelihood of having a long extension dictated by the EU.
I commend the Minister for batting very well on a difficult wicket. I hope that he moves up in the reshuffle batting order after today. He has done very well—[Interruption.] I think my time has passed.
Was it not the Government’s position that if the House agreed to the withdrawal agreement, they would seek a short technical extension? Given that the Prime Minister will probably go to the EU summit without a withdrawal agreement having been passed, is it not likely that the EU, which will then be in the driving seat, will ask for a long extension?
That being the case, would it not be a little premature of the Prime Minister to take a letter ahead of a possible third meaningful vote next week—subject to a change in the motion, as outlined by Mr Speaker earlier? Would it not perhaps be better to wait until next week to see whether we can get the meaningful vote on the Order Paper and voted through and then ask for a short extension, rather than have a long extension dictated to this House and this country by the EU?
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? But in the event that it does not, we need a way to extend the article 50 process. That is what I have been outlining this afternoon.