European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:45 pm on 7th March 2017.

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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 12:45 pm, 7th March 2017

My Lords, the Conservative Party manifesto made it absolutely clear that we would respect the outcome, a position that the noble Lord himself took on the night of the referendum. It is absolutely our intention that the Government will deliver on the results of the referendum. I know that the noble Lord is spending Lent eating his own words, but I am sorry to say that he is wrong on this point.

Then there are the consequences of such a referendum. Would it bring certainty? Will businesses clap their hands with glee at the thought of a referendum some years off, the basis on which it would be held unclear, but the consequences of which could be to throw the entire negotiated settlement up in the air? We know the answer. As I have said, the Institute of Directors have called for:

“A commitment across all major political parties … not to undertake a second referendum on either EU membership or the Brexit deal to reduce uncertainty”.

What would happen, even after all this, if the result of the second referendum is still to leave? As some noble Lords have pointed out, would we once again be subjected to people saying, “Actually, we don’t like this answer. Please try again”? Where does it end? Will we continue to hold the same referendum until we get the result that those who support this amendment prefer?