European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:45 am on 7th March 2017.

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Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative 11:45 am, 7th March 2017

My Lords, I agree entirely with the noble Baroness that referendums are a bad idea, and I am surprised that everyone else in the Chamber does not agree, especially those on the Liberal Democrat Benches.

Nevertheless, we had a referendum and, as the most reverend Primate said, it was a binary choice: yes or no. People knew what they were voting for, and they voted to leave the EU. It is unbecoming and, if I may say so, patronising of people to attribute to the individuals of this nation the reasons for how they voted. Personally, in 1975 I voted to stay in and some 40 years later, with my experience of the EU, I voted to take back control of this country and put it in the hands of the British people. That is what I have done, and that is what I suspect that most people are expecting from us. It is patronising to suggest that people did not know what they were voting for.

The logic to which the noble Lord, Lord Newby, referred is this: what would happen if in a second referendum the people of this country rejected the Government’s negotiating position? No one has an answer to that, so I would say that there must be a third referendum, but I would not particularly want to get into that.

Finally, perhaps I may direct my friends on the Liberal Democrat Benches—I count them as friends and I hope that they count me as a friend from time to time—to an article published in the Times yesterday by a man called Edward Lucas, who outed himself as a Liberal Democrat—I did not realise he was until then—which suggested that this is part of reinvigorating the fortunes of the Liberal Democrats. I would say the contrary. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, suggested that there might be corrosive and justifiable anger, but the great British people have had their referendum and they do not want another one. So we should just ignore this amendment and carry on.