DExEU – THE GOVERNMENT'S PLAN FOR BREXIT – 7 December 2016

[Caroline Lucas: Does the hon. and learned Gentleman [Keir Starmer] acknowledge that, by accepting the Government’s amendment to his otherwise very good motion, he is falling into a Tory trap of binding his party to supporting the invoking of Article 50 by March, which is an unrealistic and increasingly arbitrary date?

Mr Speaker: Before the hon. and learned Gentleman responds, may I politely say that the intervention is absolutely legitimate but this is a helpful guide: if Members who are hoping to speak intervene more than once, in accordance with very long-standing practice they will be relegated on the list? That is only fair if I am to try to secure equal opportunities for all Members.

Keir Starmer: I am grateful for that intervention, and I assure the hon. Lady that I shall come to that important point in due course ... ]

Dr Julian Lewis: Does the shadow Secretary of State [Keir Starmer] agree that, if the Opposition support, or at least do not oppose, the Government’s Amendment, it would be completely unacceptable and ​totally inconsistent for them to do anything in the New Year to delay the triggering of Article 50 beyond 31 March?

[Keir Starmer: I have made it absolutely clear that nothing in today’s motion precludes any party, including my own, from tabling an Amendment to proposed legislation, if there is proposed legislation, and voting on it. I am astonished that some Members are willing to pass up the opportunity to have a vote in the first place and to restrict our ability to debate Amendments.

The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Mr David Davis): I do not want to break the hon. and learned Gentleman’s flow, but I want to make a factual point. Will he please answer the question that has just been put to him? Given that he supports the Amendment, does he think it reasonable that some want to frustrate and slow down the Article 50 process?

Keir Starmer: I have made it absolutely clear and I will make it absolutely clear again –​ that the purpose of the Motion calling for a plan is not to frustrate or delay the process. That is not why we are calling for a plan. This presents a challenge for the Government, because they now need to produce a plan in good time to allow the proper formalities and processes to be gone through. The timetable is more of a challenge for the Government than it is for the Opposition.]

​[NOTE: The Government's Amendment, calling for Article 50 to be invoked "by 31 March 2017", was carried by 461 votes to 89 –​ a majority of 372.]