Outcome of the European Union Referendum - Motion to Take Note (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:02 pm on 6th July 2016.

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Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 8:02 pm, 6th July 2016

I am suggesting that the referendum is advisory, but the British Government should start working on the basis of its result, even though I think it is flawed. I would argue that we should then, for a whole range of reasons, give the British public the opportunity to think again. First, the proposal of the leave campaigners was sold on a false prospectus by that snake oil salesman Boris and barrow boy Farage. They have both gone AWOL. Where are they now? They are not coming forward to try to sort out the mess that they have created.

Secondly, already flaws and problems are beginning to arise. There is already a threatened break-up of the United Kingdom. On Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon is looking at the opportunity to take this referendum as a trigger. On Northern Ireland, think of the problems, with Sinn Fein already talking a united Ireland and the possibility of a border between northern and southern Ireland. On Gibraltar, Spain is talking about shared sovereignty, so no wonder Gibraltar is worried about the future.

Thirdly, the leavers—those who argued the case for leaving—have got no idea of what it involves. They have no idea of the way forward, which means that we have been sold a false prospectus. Some of my remain colleagues, for whom I have the greatest respect, having worked with them for a while, have thrown in the towel. They say, “We are where we are. We’ve got to accept it. We’d better make the best of it”. I think that that is a defeatist attitude. It does not do this place proud, and it does not do the other place proud either.

I have the greatest respect for a number of colleagues, such as the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, my noble friends Lord Hain and Lady Andrews and the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston. As the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, has said outside the House, although not here, once the terms are clear and the negotiations have taken place, we need to give the British people the opportunity to think again. That is not undemocratic or saying that we should forget or abandon the previous referendum, although I have criticised it. We are saying that we should work on the basis of that referendum, and once the terms become clearer, give the British public the opportunity of thinking again. It is our responsibility as parliamentarians—we have that responsibility—to work out how the British public can be given that opportunity, not to join the lemming-like rush into the abyss.