Brexit: Article 50 - Statement

– in the House of Lords at 5:09 pm on 7th November 2016.

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Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 5:09 pm, 7th November 2016

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made in the other place earlier today by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I will now make a Statement on the process for invoking Article 50. The Government’s priority at every stage following the referendum has been to respect the outcome of that referendum and ensure it is delivered on. To leave the EU was the clear decision of the British people. It was taken after a six-to-one vote in this House to put that decision in their hands. As the Government told voters: ‘This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide’. No ifs, no buts. So there can be no going back. The point of no return was passed on June 23.

Implementing the decision to leave the EU means following the right processes. We must leave in the way agreed in law by the UK and other member states, which means following the process set out in Article 50 of the treaty on the European Union.

We have been clear about the timing. There was good reason why the Government did not take the advice of some in this House and trigger Article 50 immediately. Instead, the Prime Minister was clear that she would not invoke Article 50 before the end of this year. This is giving us the time to develop a detailed negotiating position. But we have also said that the process should not drag on, and that we intend to trigger Article 50 by the end of March next year.

Let me now turn to the issues at hand. Legal action was taken to challenge the Government on the proper process for triggering Article 50. We have always been of the clear view that this is a matter for the Government: that it is constitutionally proper and lawful to begin to give effect to the referendum result by the use of prerogative powers. As I have said, the basis on which the referendum was held was that the Government would give effect to the result of that referendum. This was the basis on which people were asked to vote.

Our argument in the High Court was that decisions on the making and withdrawal from treaties are clear examples of the use of the royal prerogative, and that Parliament—while having a role in this process which I will come on to—has not constrained the use of the prerogative to withdraw from the EU. Our position in the case was therefore that the Government were entitled to invoke the procedure set out in Article 50.

The court has, however, come to a different view, and held that the Government do not have the prerogative power to give notice under Article 50 without legislation authorising them to do so. The court said the starting point was that the Crown does not have power to vary the law of the land using its prerogative powers unless Parliament legislated to the contrary. It held that the European Communities Act 1972 brought rights arising under EU law into the law of the United Kingdom, and that the Crown has no prerogative power to withdraw from the EU because the effect of withdrawal would be to take away those rights.

Let me be clear about this: we believe in and value the independence of our judiciary, the foundation upon which our rule of law is built. We also value the freedom of our press. Both these things underpin our democracy. The Government disagree with the court’s judgment. The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by an Act of Parliament. Our position remains that the only means of leaving is through the procedure set out in Article 50 and that triggering Article 50 is properly a matter for the Government using their prerogative powers. We will appeal the High Court’s judgment at the Supreme Court.

Given our appeal, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the details of the legal arguments. I hope that the House will understand this, but let me say a brief word about the process of our appeal. We have taken two necessary procedural steps. First, the Government have been granted a certificate to bypass the Court of Appeal and ‘leap-frog’ the case to the Supreme Court. This will ensure that, when we lodge our appeal, it will be heard directly in the Supreme Court without further delay in the courts.

Secondly, we will this week apply for the substantive permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. It is likely that any hearing will be scheduled in the Supreme Court in early December. We would hope the judgment would be provided soon after. This timetable remains consistent with our aim to trigger Article 50 by the end of March next year.

We are now preparing our submissions to the Supreme Court in the usual way. As I have said, it would not be proper to go into those in great detail here today, but the core of our argument will remain that we believe that it is proper and lawful for the Government to trigger Article 50 by the use of prerogative powers.

Of course, there is also litigation under way in Northern Ireland. This is considering a number of specific issues linked to Northern Ireland’s constitutional arrangements. The High Court in Belfast found in the Government’s favour on these points. We welcome that outcome. A hearing in Belfast is being held tomorrow to consider whether an appeal by the claimants in this case should also leap-frog to the UK Supreme Court and whether the issues that overlapped with the English courts should remain stayed, pending the outcome of the Supreme Court.

Again, it would not be appropriate for me to say more on this at this stage, except that in the event of any appeal in the Northern Ireland litigation, the Government will robustly defend their position. For the avoidance of doubt, our view is that the legal timetable in relation to this case in the event of an appeal should also be consistent with our commitment to notifying under Article 50 by the end of March next year.

I have said that, because of our appeal, I will not go into detail here on the points of law that were raised in the High Court’s judgment, but let me set out some fundamental principles for how we move ahead. First of all, our plan remains to invoke Article 50 by the end of March. We believe that the legal timetable should allow for that.

Secondly, the referendum must be respected and delivered. The country voted to leave the European Union, in a referendum provided for by an Act of Parliament. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door and no second referendum. The country voted to leave the European Union and it is the duty of the Government to make sure we do just that. Parliament had its say in legislating for the referendum, which it did in both Houses, and with overwhelming majorities in this House and cross-party support. The people have spoken and we intend to act on their decision.

Thirdly, irrespective of the ongoing court process, there is an important role for Parliament. Parliament will have a central role in making sure that we find the best way forward and we have been clear that we will be as transparent and open as possible. There have already been a number of debates and parliamentary Statements on Brexit, and the Prime Minister has pledged that that process will continue before Article 50 is invoked.

I informed the House in October that there would be a series of debates on Brexit in Government time. The first is this afternoon. This is on top of a number of other debates and opportunities for scrutiny. The new Select Committee on Exiting the EU has been established. This provides another place for parliamentary scrutiny of our withdrawal from the EU and the committee will be visiting my department tomorrow.

The Government will bring forward legislation in the next Session that, when enacted, will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 on the day we leave the EU. This ‘great repeal Bill’ will end the authority of EU law and return power to the UK. We have been clear that EU law will be transposed into UK law at the time we leave, providing certainty for workers, businesses and consumers. This will be an Act of Parliament, which we intend to have in place before the end of the Article 50 process. It is important to remember that Article 50 is the beginning of this process; it is not the end.

As the Prime Minister has made clear, there will be many opportunities for Parliament to continue to engage with the Government once Article 50 has been invoked. When negotiations have concluded we will observe in full all relevant legal and constitutional obligations that apply, but there is a balance to be struck between parliamentary scrutiny and preserving our negotiating position, which is why the House unanimously concluded last month that the process should be undertaken in such a way that respects the decision of the people of the UK when they voted to leave the EU on 23 June and does not undermine the negotiating position of the Government as negotiations are entered into. We will give no quarter to anyone who, while going through the motions of respecting the outcome of the referendum, in fact seeks ways to thwart the decision of the British people.

To conclude: we are disappointed by the court’s judgment in this important case. We will appeal that judgment to the Supreme Court. None of this in any way diminishes our determination to respect and deliver on the outcome of the referendum and to notify under Article 50 by the end of March next year. We are going to get on with delivering on the mandate to leave the European Union in the best way possible for the UK’s national interest—best for jobs, best for growth and best for investment. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

Photo of Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 5:20 pm, 7th November 2016

I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement, which I feel he had no hand in drafting. My guess is that he would have preferred to get on with allowing Parliament to trigger Article 50. Indeed, how much better it would have been if the Government had listened to the wise words of our Constitution Committee in September, when it said that a parliamentary vote would be needed. It is hard to understand why the Government are getting in such a tizzy about this. Rather like after their tax credit defeat, they overreact when faced by any challenge.

In September, I commented that,

“leaving the EU is not a simple step outside but a journey”.—[Official Report, 8/9/16; col. 1131.]

But will we leave Brussels via Dunkirk or Ostend, by train through Calais, by plane via Dublin or, heaven forfend, by the good ship “Titanic” piloted by Boris Johnson?

These are serious matters. In our economy, highly dependent on services, we have to secure a future for our creative, internet, design, legal, engineering and financial services and for intellectual property. We must be sure that our insolvency practitioners, chasing down funds for UK-based creditors, have access to squirreled wealth in EU countries—currently allowed for under the mutual recognition of appointments—and that our lawyers retain rights of address and legal privilege. We need to safeguard the future of UK nationals living abroad as they lose their EU citizenship. We have to disentangle our competition law from that of the EU, law developed to protect consumers from monopolies and cartels, while helping our exporters, who will still be subject to EU competition rules.

Until we know the terms on which we will leave the EU and our relationship with the remaining 27 member states after we leave, we cannot negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world, so the terms on which we disengage from the EU and their consequences should be debated in Parliament. Parliament needs to question whether the Prime Minister has the right negotiating objectives for how we leave the EU. What priority will she give to remaining in the single market? Is she safeguarding—indeed, promoting—our regions, which have done less well from globalisation? Is she seeking to enhance consumer, environmental and workplace protections? Are her objectives grounded in security considerations and promoting human rights and are they acceptable to the electorate?

The British people decided that we should leave the EU, but it is for Parliament, not simply Downing Street, to debate the exit details. Whichever route we take, we have a long journey ahead of us. In that time, my fervent hope is that we see no more of the British press, which ought to recognise the sovereignty of Parliament and the independence of our judiciary, printing 72-point headings naming the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chief Justice as “Enemies of the people” simply for doing their job and pointing out that, constitutionally, the Government,

“does not have power under the Crown’s prerogative to give notice pursuant to Article 50 … for the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union”.

The High Court ruling will not derail Brexit. However, given that the Government were caught short by the referendum result and none of the preparatory work was done in the case of a Brexit outcome, can the Minister assure the House that they will not find themselves in the same position this time if the judgment is upheld, and that a Bill is in preparation? Our EU committees have already started work on a myriad of issues to be addressed. Could the Minister confirm that the Government will listen to the experience and knowledgeable words of these colleagues as they go forward?

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. I could not agree more with the assertion in it that implementing the decision to leave the EU means following the right processes, including the time to develop a detailed negotiating position. The right processes mean implementing the repeated pledge to honour UK parliamentary sovereignty and seeking parliamentary approval for the negotiating position.

By December, the Government will have lost six months in that process. In fact, they seem to be tying themselves up in knots trying to avoid such parliamentary involvement, getting bogged down in their misguided pursuit of executive autonomy over the Article 50 process in an unnecessary and delay-inducing court case. Their incoherence is displayed in having to offer special comfort deals to particular firms such as Nissan instead of being clear in regard to the single market and the customs union. This is creating destabilising uncertainty for all kinds of economic operators and other bodies. Now we hear the Prime Minister talk about putting on the table more visas for Indian nationals, while apparently immigration is treated as a barrier to the single market. That seems somewhat contradictory.

We must rely on leaks in the press to try and read the Government’s mind—or read the tea leaves. Indeed, there is much speculation about a Bill but no such indication in the Statement today. I join the noble Baroness in asking for clarification on that. We need a respectful relationship between Government and Parliament, one indeed sketched out in several reports of our own EU Select Committee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, and one last month from the Constitution Committee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton. A lot of work and evidence went into those reports but the Government just brushed them aside.

The Government are not only behaving arrogantly towards Parliament when the political constitutional basis for Parliament’s role was in fact clear without the legal process, but also—to the dismay of people across the political spectrum—indulging in populist and xenophobic language, culminating in the failure to properly defend the institution of the judiciary. Freedom of the press may incorporate a freedom to criticise a particular judgment but not to indulge in scurrilous personal and institutional abuse of judges and the judiciary. It is very disappointing that neither in the days since the High Court judgment nor today have the Government rebuked the nature of the press comments notably in the Daily Mail and rather more shockingly in the Daily Telegraph, including the famous “enemies of the people” slogan evocative of Nazi Germany. It would be good to hear from the Government a condemnation of that kind of press coverage, and of the incitement to rioting in the streets from the former leader of UKIP, Mr Farage.

The Government say they intend to act on the decision to leave but it is on the character of that action that we need clarity since there are many different varieties of Brexit—probably more than 57. It is necessary to be respectful to those who voted remain if the Prime Minister genuinely wants to unite the country. The phrase in the Statement about giving no quarter is a rather disturbing signal.

Liberal Democrats in no way seek to undermine the negotiating position of the Government. Parliament having an overview of the objectives would not do so. Indeed, having the backing of Parliament, as was mentioned in our several reports, would strengthen the Government’s hand in those negotiations. We are not asking for details of particular trade-offs or red lines.

Any delay is down to the Government. If they act in good faith, there is no reason not to meet a March timetable. This does not mean a series of interesting but essentially purposeless general debates in which the Government stonewall, but an opportunity to get to grips with a concrete plan and a substantive strategy. Can the Minister therefore tell us whether the Government are planning to inform Parliament about their negotiating objectives in a White Paper, as is rumoured, and what kind of Bill they are planning to produce? The Government need to stop waffling and sidestepping and give us enough meat to be able to vote for the triggering of Article 50.

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Ludford, for their contributions. I am determined to work constructively with Members of this House who want to make a success of Brexit. I said that at the start, that offer remains, and I am grateful to noble Lords who have spared their time and their expertise to meet me in private. As I say, my door remains open to anyone who wishes to have any conversation with me.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, asked why we are appealing. As I said in the Statement, our position has been and remains that the decision to leave the EU was taken by the people in a referendum and that triggering Article 50, the starting point of the process, is a matter for the Government. That is an important principle, which is why we are appealing the judgment. As regards what would happen were we to lose, we are obviously prepared for all eventualities, but equally obviously, we are focused on the appeal to the Supreme Court. As we said last week, the logical conclusion to draw from the High Court judgment is that legislation would be necessary, but we are appealing the judgment and hope that the Supreme Court will rule differently. In the event that it does not, we will assess what remedy the Supreme Court requires and will set out our approach at that point. Therefore the speculation about a Bill is just that at this juncture—speculation.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Ludford, referred to the response to that court ruling. To embellish a little what I said in the Statement, I strongly believe, as the Government do, that one of the basic tenets of a free society is freedom of speech and expression, but so too is the independence of the judiciary, which is clearly a cornerstone of our democracy in maintaining the rule of law. We must observe due process and the independence of the judiciary and abide by its rulings. Meanwhile, however, we must all respect the outcome of the referendum and the wish of 17.4 million people to leave the EU.

On the role of Parliament, the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, said a fair amount just a moment ago. She also talked about this on the “Today” programme this morning, when I was munching on my cornflakes, saying that the Government were completely excluding Parliament, and she just said that the Government are being arrogant towards Parliament. I will not get into a war of words on this. I will just put on the record what the Government have done so far. They have answered 302 Parliamentary Written Questions, made three Oral Statements, answered seven Oral Parliamentary Questions, given four Ministerial Statements and made 10 Select Committee appearances, and have replied to over half a dozen other debates. Currently there are over 30 Brexit-themed Select Committee inquiries. I make that point to say that we are giving Parliament the chance for scrutiny. On top of that, Parliament will vote to repeal the ECA and, as I said in the Statement, parliamentary procedure will be followed to ratify any treaty.

Furthermore, on the role of Parliament, our key aim in the negotiations will obviously be to deliver the best outcome while protecting the national interest. The Government have said that we will be as open as we possibly can be and we have set out our strategic aims. I argue, as I have done before, that we will not achieve a good outcome if this negotiation is run from the back seat by the House of Commons and this House. No negotiation can possibly be run in that way. Indeed, if Parliament insists that triggering Article 50 should be conditional on us going into this negotiation with all our cards face up for everyone on the other side of the table to see, that detailed minimum negotiating position will quickly become the maximum possible offer from our negotiating partners. Furthermore, the talk of a second referendum from some in this House and elsewhere will simply encourage the EU to impose difficult terms in the hope that the British people will change their minds if only the question is put to them again. To those who argue for certainty I ask: what greater uncertainty can there be than for that to be injected into the system?

Therefore, parliamentary scrutiny? Absolutely. But telling the Prime Minister which cards to play and seeking to force her to disclose her hand to those with whom she will be negotiating? I say no.

Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative 5:35 pm, 7th November 2016

My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend that the principles of judicial independence and of freedom of the press are fundamental to our constitution. However, my freedom as a citizen does not entitle me to assault my neighbour, and the freedom of the press certainly does not entitle the press to insult, in a vicious and vocal manner, judges who are carrying out their statutory responsibility.

Hear, hear.

Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative

Everybody who took part in the case made it clear that the judges were asked to determine a question of law, which was entirely within their jurisdiction. They made it abundantly clear that they had no views to express on Brexit or anything associated with it except on the question of law which was put to them, which is simply whether the prerogative power enables this triggering to happen. I express no view upon that matter because it has been appealed to the Supreme Court and I verily believe that in due course, it will address it and I await its judgment. In the meantime, however, I am concerned about the reaction of a substantial section of the press, which needs to be dealt with now, which is why I felt it necessary to say what I have said. It is entirely necessary that the independence of the judiciary should be respected, and I believe that all my colleagues in this House are of the same opinion. I hope that the Minister is also of the same opinion.

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble and learned friend that the independence of the judiciary and the right of the judges to determine without fear or favour the issues before them is absolutely sacrosanct. They are there to use their best endeavours to interpret and apply the law, which is clearly what they have done and will continue to do.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Labour

My Lords, I entirely endorse what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, said. I recognise that the Government cannot and should not try to control the press. I do not read the result of the referendum as throwing away all our constitutional protections. One of those constitutional protections is the rule of law—that depends upon the independence of the judiciary. The judiciary is strong; it is fine as long as it knows that the Government will support it against scurrilous attacks.

What is so disappointing about this Statement and the conduct of the Government since Thursday, when these scurrilous attacks began, is that, first, at no stage have they said that they accept that the three judges acted in accordance with their judicial oath; secondly, nobody on behalf of the Government has separated themselves from the remarks of Mr Sajid Javid, who described the three judges as thwarting the will of the people. We in this House respect the noble Lord, Lord Bridges of Headley, and we know that he will have prepared properly for this Statement. Can he confirm on behalf of the Government that they accept that the three judges acted entirely in accordance with their judicial oath? Secondly, can he make it clear that the statement of Mr Sajid Javid on Thursday evening did not represent the views of the Government?

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I will absolutely answer the first point by saying: yes. Indeed, I read with interest the noble and learned Lord’s article in the Daily Mail over the weekend, in which he made a number of these points. I completely agree that they acted in good faith and according to their oath. We are questioning the judgment and that is why we are appealing but I am certainly not going to stand here and say that they acted in bad faith. As regards what else he had to say, I have nothing further to add.

Photo of The Bishop of Leeds The Bishop of Leeds Bishop

My Lords, it has been said that 17 million people voted in favour of leaving the EU; that still leaves a very divided country. Not everybody who voted to remain can be assumed to be trying to thwart the decision of the British people simply by asking legitimate questions. The final part of the Statement says:

“We are going to get on with delivering on the mandate to leave the European Union in the best way possible for the UK’s national interest”.

That is defined as,

“best for jobs, best for growth and best for investment”.

Does the Minister agree that we should perhaps have added, “Best for social order and the nature of our public and political discourse”?

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

The right reverend Prelate makes a good point. He points to a sin of omission here. I totally agree that we need to be looking at what is best for the communities of this country; that is why I am delighted that I have met with representatives of the Church of England to discuss this. Brexit raises a whole range of issues which are posing challenges for communities. I know that is so as regards EU funding. There are concerns across the board on various points. I am happy to discuss those with all faith groups and I am delighted that the Church of England has agreed to do so.

Photo of Lord Morris of Aberavon Lord Morris of Aberavon Labour

My Lords, will the Minister inform the Prime Minister that she should invite the Minister for Justice to study her constitutional duties under the Constitutional Reform Act—particularly Section 3(1) and 3(6)—to defend the judiciary, in view of her half-hearted and delayed defence of the judiciary and her failure to rebut some of the inflammatory comments in the newspapers, in which she was joined by a senior Minister as well?

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I hear what the noble and learned Lord says. I have made my position clear on this and I really do not have very much more to add.

Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench

Can the Minister tell us when the Government intend to inform Parliament about the content that they would like to see in the framework for our future relationship with the European Union? The Minister will recognise that I am quoting from the language of clause 2 of Article 50. Also, when will we be told whether leaving the European Union will also mean leaving the EU customs union—a point of some importance to manufacturers with modern, just-in-time supply chains?

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

The noble Lord makes an extremely good point and speaks from considerable experience. We will be as open and transparent with Parliament and businesses as we possibly can, with the important caveat that I set out: we cannot and must not undermine our negotiating position and the national interest. As the noble Lord understands, we are looking at considerably complex issues right now. That is why we are looking at 51 sectors of the economy and at issues such as the supply chain. As I say, when we are in a position to do so we will be as open and transparent as we can be.

Photo of Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Liberal Democrat

My Lords, we all believe in the freedom of the press and in the independence of the judiciary. But I doubt very much whether there is a single one of your Lordships who does not believe in the supremacy and sovereignty of Parliament. The decision made by the High Court judges underlines and ensures the application of that doctrine. Why, in the four corners of this Statement, is there no reference to the sovereignty of Parliament?

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My Lords, the noble Lord asked me last week whether we respect the sovereignty of Parliament. We do. We respect the sovereignty of Parliament and the rule of law, but the sovereignty of Parliament reflects the will of the people—and the people voted for a Government to give them a referendum on leaving the European Union. Parliament passed that legislation and 17.4 million people voted to leave the European Union.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Chair, International Relations Committee

My Lords, in view of all the high feelings which we have just heard, would it not be wiser and better in the interests of a smooth and speedy Brexit, which I certainly want to see, to work with Parliament from now on rather than battling against it? Why can the Government not give us a really detailed Green Paper, outlining and analysing all the complexities of the situation? It would be nothing to do with the negotiating position, which comes quite separately. We could then debate that Green Paper over two or even three days and give the best input of Parliament from both its Houses. The Government could then bring forward a one-clause Bill authorising the Article 50 process to go forward. Is that not a simpler and more constructive way of proceeding than the one we are on now?

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I hear what my noble friend has to say but the Prime Minister has made it clear that we are going to appeal this judgment. That is the position we are in. As regards setting out our position on the future negotiations, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, we have been clear that we will be as transparent and open with Parliament as we can possibly be, once we have finished our analysis of the options open to us.

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Labour

My Lords, the Minister rightly celebrates the independence of the judiciary. However, my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer asked him to condemn the words of Sajid Javid, who by his words undermined what the Minister is saying. What the right honourable Minister said was completely unacceptable; indeed, those words corrode the very democracy that the noble Lord seeks to uphold. Please will he condemn the words of the right honourable Sajid Javid?

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My Lords, I am sorry to say that I have nothing further to add on this matter.

Photo of Lord Lang of Monkton Lord Lang of Monkton Chair, Constitution Committee

My Lords, your Constitution Committee did indeed state in its report on the invoking of Article 50 that it was constitutionally appropriate that Parliament should be involved in the various stages of the negotiations, including the triggering of Article 50. I am sure that we would still stand by that view. However, we accept the need to make progress and to make it reasonably rapidly, removing uncertainty not least from the economy and the concerns of the business community, and the possible jeopardising of the future of that economy should matters be drawn out unduly. Does my noble friend agree that the triggering of Article 50 is essentially a matter of timing? It is therefore not an appropriate time for diving into the detailed study of the Government’s negotiating plans, which it might anyway be inappropriate to lay before Parliament in advance and thus declare their position.

However, if it is a matter of timing, would it not be sensible to consider bringing before both Houses of Parliament a short and tightly drawn Bill and seeking the agreement of the various parties involved to achieve rapid progress through the House on a fast-track basis? That would remove the uncertainty that is causing so much concern; proper consideration can then be given to the negotiations. Finally, since this is about the invoking of Article 50 and not about what the Daily Mail said about the judges, could we have a debate on the invoking of Article 50 and the reports of the Constitution Committee and the European Union Committee on that subject?

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

On the second point, that is a matter for the usual channels. On the first point, I would certainly say that it is a matter of process. The Prime Minister and the Government have made it clear that we are going to appeal this judgment. I very much respect and value the work that the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Lang, does. We have tried to allay uncertainty wherever we can, be it by our approach to repealing the European Communities Act or to European funding. We are certainly doing that and will continue to look for ways in which we can mitigate it elsewhere.

Photo of Lord Butler of Brockwell Lord Butler of Brockwell Crossbench

My Lords, is it not the case that the Government have already laid out the basis of their negotiating strategy; namely, that we will insist on taking back control of immigration, that we will take back administration of justice in the UK to the UK courts, and that thereafter we will seek to do as good a deal as we can for trade in goods and services to the benefit of both the UK and our European partners? Given this basis, is there not plenty of time, following what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, for the Government to lay a Green Paper with rather more detail and get legislation through in time to meet their deadline of triggering Article 50 by the end of March?

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My Lords, once again, I respect what the noble Lord has to say. I have set out as far as possible that we are undertaking that extensive analysis. Clearly he is absolutely right that we have set out the underlying principles of the Government’s negotiating position, and with that in mind, that is the basis upon which our analysis is proceeding. As regards a Green Paper, to which the noble Lord and my noble friend Lord Howell referred, we intend to be as transparent and open as possible in the course of events.

Photo of Lord Wigley Lord Wigley Plaid Cymru

My Lords, to the extent that the Government cannot divulge their full negotiating hand prior to moving Article 50, does that not reinforce and make even more important that 20 months down the road, or whatever it is, when these negotiations have been concluded, the question should be put back to Parliament to take a decisive decision?

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord will be delighted to hear that there will be considerable opportunities between now and then for us to have many more Statements, debates et cetera. As regards what will happen at the end, we have made it very clear that all treaties arising from the negotiations will be subject to the due process of constitutional precedents. On that, I have nothing further to add.

Photo of Lord Maclennan of Rogart Lord Maclennan of Rogart Liberal Democrat

My Lords, why have the Government ignored the reports of the Constitution Committee referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Lang? Why is Parliament not being given the intentions regarding the presentation of specified information? Why are Ministers in principle not being required to report back to Parliament at all? Why is Parliament not being involved in the negotiation process subsequent to the initial determinations?

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My Lords, we have taken the position we do on the court case—if I understand the noble Lord correctly—because we believe that starting the process of triggering Article 50 is a matter for the Government. As regards the negotiation process, I have nothing further to add to my response to the noble Lord, Lord Butler.

Photo of Lord Elystan-Morgan Lord Elystan-Morgan Crossbench

My Lords, why is the Minister so reluctant to condemn the scurrilous attacks made in the press on Her Majesty’s judges? Does he not accept that what they were asked to do was to look very carefully, historically and analytically, at the prerogative powers? Those powers started as a monarchical dictatorship and were gallantly challenged in the 17th century in the civil war. Today, the remnant is not sufficient to allow the Government to do anything that would further the process of Article 50. Had the judges done anything different they would have been betraying their oath and would have indeed been unworthy of their position. They have acted in the very best traditions of the British judiciary.

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

As I said, I am not going to go much beyond what I said before. I totally respect and wish to protect the independence of the judiciary, and I am absolutely sure that those judges acted in good faith.

Photo of Lord Higgins Lord Higgins Conservative

The Statement seems to imply that the referendum made a decision to leave the European Union. Those of us who served on the Bill setting up the referendum know that that is not so; it was clearly an advisory referendum. It is therefore very important that the Government should not now treat it as a mandatory referendum which would be contrary to and incompatible with our system of representative parliamentary democracy. I think the right thing to do now is to take the advice of the referendum, but it is clear that on the details—the expression “Brexit means Brexit” is totally meaningless—Parliament should be able to take a view on whether to implement Article 50 and go along with the judgment of the High Court.

Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My Lords, the Government are appealing against the judgment of the High Court and believe that the views of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave should be respected. As regards the position of this House, I repeat all the points I said before about the role it has so far had in setting up the referendum and the role it will have in due course in issues such as repealing the European Communities Act.