Parliament debates Brexit

Labour Party

House of Lords
A packed House of Lords began its first session scrutinising the EU Withdrawal Bill yesterday. Kicking off the deliberation was an impassioned speech given by Lord Adonis who tabled an amendment to enshrine in law a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

Lord Adonis explained just how important the two-day debate is: “There are more speakers in this debate than the entire membership of the Lords for the first five centuries of existence and more than in any other debate in our 800-year history. It’s symbolic,” he said.

He insisted that: “As the first say on Brexit was given to the people. So, the final say on Brexit should rest with the people, once they see the terms proposed by the Government.”

He completed his speech by quoting both Edmund Burke, who said: “People will not look forward to posterity who do not look back to their ancestors.”

And then Lord Carrington who spoke it the Lords 50 years ago when Britain made its second application to join the European Union: “We are a part of Europe our civilisation, our heritage our manners are all European.

“The vision of a united Europe of France, Italy, Germany and Britain united in common purpose and effort must surely be something to stir the imagination of the phlegmatic and placid. What splendid opportunities for the future and what a lost opportunity for us and for Europe if we are deprived of our opportunity to make contributions. Let us not throw it all away”.

He wasn’t a lone voice. The Liberal Democrat Peer and the party’s leader in the Lords, Lord Newby, supported Lord Adonis. He said: “The Bill and the Government still also refuses to countenance the idea that, having fired the starting gun for the Brexit process, the people should decide whether the Government has produced a deal which they find acceptable.

“My Lords, opponents of a referendum on any Brexit deal have argued that such a vote would frustrate the will of the people.”

“Yet, as of today, polls show that the people wish to have such a referendum, and that they are likely to vote to remain in the EU.

Meanwhile, the Leader of the Lords Baroness Evans said she opposed the move because the point of the Withdrawal Bill was: “not about revisiting the arguments of the referendum”.

She also suggested that, where appropriate, handing control to ministers on some Brexit related issues was justified. But Labour leader in the Lords, Baroness Smith, called for the Government to re think the so-called Henry VIII powers. She said: “I hope Government recognises that it must scale back on the scope of such unprecedented and sweeping delegated powers granted to Ministers, and safeguard Parliamentary Sovereignty.”

Meanwhile Kier Starmer held Brexit minister Steve Baker to account over the Brexit departments leaked document. In an emergency debate Starmer urged the Brexit minister to publish the leaked document in full: He said: “People voted to leave the European Union in part to give Parliament control about its own future. That means giving MPs the information they need to scrutinise the government’s approach to Brexit. Ministers cannot keep side-lining Parliament to hide the deep divisions within their own party.”

Attempting to play down the embarrassing and damaging leak of the document, Baker said the Government can’t publish anything that risks exposing its negotiating position. “It’s a selective interpretation of a preliminary analysis it’s an attempt to undermine our exit from the EU. The Government is undertaking a wide-ranging analysis.

Kier Starmer simply replied: “Not good enough”. Government has been called upon to carry out Brexit impact assessments…Will the Brexit Secretary publish this full analysis now. Not in nine months’ time but now? Will he commit to publishing this analysis in full? Now?”

And the Europhile Tory MP and Father of the House, Kenneth Clarke, clearly irritated by the ridiculous claim it would damage negotiating power told the minister to: “Stop pretending it’s a way of protecting our negotiating power.”