We live in very strange times. The campaign to leave the EU was based to a very great extent on the idea of restoring parliamentary sovereignty. Indeed, the Government’s White Paper asserts:
“The sovereignty of Parliament is a fundamental principle of the UK constitution.”
Yet Ministers seem set on opposing any attempt to guarantee a meaningful role for Parliament in the process of withdrawing from the EU. Instead we are being asked to write a blank cheque to give Ministers power to withdraw the country from the EU on whatever terms they like—or worse, on no terms at all. Ministers seem to regard their colleagues as little better than lemmings. Faced with the prospect of falling off the cliff edge, we are apparently meant to suspend all judgment and blindly follow wherever they lead. But to allow Ministers to proceed in this way would be an extraordinary and unforgivable abdication of parliamentary responsibility. The manner and terms on which we withdraw from the EU will have implications for the rights and interests of every citizen and business for many years to come, and Parliament must take responsibility for these decisions.
The final deal on trade with the EU will almost certainly need to be ratified at both national and federal level of each EU member state. Lords amendment 2 simply gives the UK Parliament the same power. Do Ministers really want this Parliament to be the single most underpowered of all European Parliaments during that process?
I appeal to my colleagues to defy the whipped-up anger of the anti-European press, and to stand up to the ridiculous notion that any and every attempt to give Parliament a role in the Brexit process is somehow a betrayal of the will of the people. It is no such thing—it is simply the exercise of the judgment that we were elected to bring to this House. We were not elected to be lemmings.