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Jackie Longworth, Chair Fair Play South West says:

"Avoiding leaving the EU on March 29th would definitely require legislation.

The Withdrawal Act is quite specific and would need amending or repealing, whether the aim is to revoke the Article 50 notification or merely seek to extend the date. Incidentally, the former we could do unilaterally but the latter would require the agreement of all 27 other Member States, which may be a tall order in the time available. It seems to me that such a Bill would need to be passed by both Houses of Parliament and receive Royal Assent before contact could be made with the EU on the subject, and before agreeing to any new referendum if that’s what they want to do? So Parliament would have had to make a decision of some sort before going back to the people for advice whether by referendum or Corbyn’s preferred option of a General Election.

Time, as they say, is now of the essence. First someone would have to propose a Bill which amends or repeals the existing Act; I’m not sure whether this has to be the Government, or whether a back bench MP can do it, probably the Lords could? I don’t expect the Government to even think of it unless and until the May deal is voted down in Parliament (and if by some ruse it isn’t voted down in the Commons do the Lords also have to agree to it?). So under the Government’s current timetable we are talking 21st January before anyone would be likely even to think of bringing forward a Bill to prevent us leaving on 29th March. 

In the meantime, apparently, the Government could bring forward a Bill authorising them to ratify the deal currently on the table which could amend the Withdrawal Act in the opposite way, to remove the requirement for a ‘meaningful vote’. This is explained in some detail in:
Parliament’s 'meaningful vote' on Brexit. If that ruse worked we could just possibly get to leave on time with this very unsatisfactory deal.

It looks to me that the rallying cry for a second vote has come too little and too late to be effective at preventing us leaving the EU on 29th March, if that was the way the vote went this time. The only way I can see is for Parliament to bite the bullet and make a decision on behalf of the people. It is what they are elected to do. And to be sure of preventing a no deal leave in the time available, the decision would probably have to be to revoke rather than to seek to delay.  If there is no decision of any sort, then we leave on March 29th with no deal, by default.

I’m sorry to be so gloomy on the first day of the year, but see no sign of the Government or Opposition really thinking through anything that looks like a proper timetable for decision making!"



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