European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:15 pm on 7th March 2017.

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Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench 12:15 pm, 7th March 2017

My Lords, I disagree with the amendment because I see two defects in it, one of which was highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, a moment ago. It purports to tie the hands of Parliament—which it should not do—unlike Amendment 3, which we will debate later today, which gives Parliament the certainty of having more options. The second defect is that the amendment does not address the increasing possibility that there will be no settlement, no agreement, and that we fall out.

What I do not like in this debate—I did not like it at Second Reading or in Committee—is the suggestion that in some way it would be illegitimate for the country to think again. There is a frog chorus behind the Minister. Every time he says, “It was decided”, the chorus behind him chants, “Koàx-koáx, decided, decided”. This is the lemming position. No matter how awful the deal turns out to be, no matter how unlike the promises of the leavers the eventual deal turns out to be, no matter how steep the cliff and stormy the sea, we must go over. There is no time to think again; there is no chance of turning back on any decision.

I find that strangely reminiscent of the Moscow I worked in in 1968, when Soviet foreign policy ran on the Brezhnev doctrine. The House will remember the Brezhnev doctrine, which said that once you have voted Communists in, you cannot vote Communists out. It was a very good doctrine for running central and eastern Europe. That seems to be the position of most of the government Back-Benches today.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, will consult his new right honourable friend Mr David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and will come to the conclusion that Mr Davis was right when he said that if a democracy cannot think again, cannot change its mind, it is no longer a democracy. I rather agree.