European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:30 am on 7th March 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Wheatcroft Baroness Wheatcroft Conservative 11:30 am, 7th March 2017

My Lords, I have no wish to get involved in Liberal Democrat internecine warfare but I put my name to this amendment and I support many of the speeches that have been made in support of it.

My noble friend the Minister has done a very skilful job in getting the Bill to this stage in this House, but in Committee he told us to be in no doubt that this country was leaving the EU—no ifs, no buts, and with no idea of the terms. I admire determination but not when it is blind to changing circumstances. I cannot see why any Government would be so adamant about a course of action with no knowledge of the circumstances in which they might take that course.

We do not know what the world will look like in two years’ time. Economically and politically it is at some of the most uncertain stages that I have ever seen in my lifetime. In two years’ time, the EU, the world and our economy could look very different—and, I suspect, not for the better. At that stage, we will be able to look at the deal that our Government have negotiated or, as others have pointed out, at the no deal that they have been handed. Although I am not an advocate of government by referenda, in this situation, having started the process with a referendum, as the noble Lord, Lord Hain, pointed out, it seems to me that the only sensible way to bring the process to an end is to put the terms to the public. I have listened to the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and I do not dismiss the patronising advice that he gave the Liberal Democrats or those supporting this amendment, but I believe that the public need to see what is on offer.

During the course of this Bill, we have heard that, whatever people voted for on 23 June last year, it was not to get poorer. I cannot see that in the end the Government will be presenting them with a deal which does not mean that they get poorer. I believe that at that stage they should have a chance to vote on whether, having seen the future, it is the future that they really want.