European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Second Reading (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:43 pm on 21st February 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Roberts of Llandudno Lord Roberts of Llandudno Liberal Democrat 6:43 pm, 21st February 2017

My Lords, when we are told that the people have spoken, we are referring to the one-third of the electorate who supported the leave campaign. I would say that the people have not spoken. They were taken on a ride in a bus built in Poland by a German company. On its side it said, “When we are out of the EU, we will have £350 million a week to spend on the NHS”. That was the promise, yet in Arron Banks’s recently published book, The Bad Boys of Brexit, he says that from the beginning they knew that it was a blatant lie. One of the biggest donors, giving £5 million to the leave campaign, has said that they knew from the beginning that it was a blatant lie.

If it was a lie, is it not possible that the result of the referendum was because of a lie on the side of a bus? In all probability, by the leave campaign’s own admission, the referendum was won on a blatant lie. If that was so, we have every right to ask the people to consider it again when the time comes. It will determine the future of every one of us—our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This House can either go along with a lie or it can decide that we are going to stop this here.

People say that we can rely on the Government. I have heard it argued that we can sort out the minutiae of this. I hope that the Government’s promise to do this is firmer than their promise to bring 20,000 Syrian refugees to the UK and to provide a home for 3,000 unaccompanied children. I do not trust this Government to keep their promises.

The difference between 23 June and today is that we have a different Administration in the United States. When people voted, Obama was President of the United States. Today we have a very different presidency —a Trump presidency. Every day we recoil in disbelief at the news from the US, the daily edicts of an Administration who are totally unpredictable. We only have to go the other way—to Russia—and, again, we have questions.

I am not going to speak at great length but, at this time of tremendous instability in the US, in Russia and perhaps in other states in Europe, I suggest that this is the very worst time for us to weaken the European Union. We are the basis for stability. We have our faults. We know that the European Union has its faults, but our own UK Parliament and Government also have their faults. What could be worse than for us to withdraw from Europe? It could be the beginning of the unravelling of the European Union at a time when we need it more than ever before. I would urge this House, at every opportunity, to secure not only our own future but the future of other countries in the world by voting to stay, strongly committed, at the heart of the European Union.