Brexit: European Union-derived Rights - Motion to Resolve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 4th April 2017.

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Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 7:30 pm, 4th April 2017

My Lords, two issues have concerned me throughout recent developments. The first is that this is not a hypothetical or theoretical question. Already in industry, commerce, the university world and other aspects of life, planning is being disrupted by uncertainty about the future availability of personnel. There is an urgent, administrative, economic reason to resolve this issue. Secondly, I am disturbed because, in the very good secondary education which I was fortunate to have, I came to understand the importance of citizenship in a modern civilised society. Many people who have established themselves in this country and who saw a future for themselves and their family here have been sustained by the concept that they had European citizenship. Speaking with knowledge from my own family, people who went to live or establish themselves elsewhere in the European Union had the same concept of citizenship. By our unilateral action in removing ourselves from the European Community we are depriving these people of citizenship. According to the education which I was privileged to receive, that is a very serious matter indeed. On those grounds it is, therefore, essential to resolve this issue rapidly.

In his very good speech, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, put the issue of the arrangements very well. We were being told constantly that there was going to be a return of power to our own society. But in our society power lies in Parliament. As he said, Ministers are accountable to Parliament and Parliament is accountable to the people. It therefore behoves us to make it very clear and certain—not least to ourselves—what the procedures will be by which we thoroughly review progress. It is not just a case of saying, “We should review progress and we have to have some arrangements”. We have to have very clear arrangements for how we will review progress.

I have been around in Parliament now, in one way or another, for 39 years. There is a way in which we, as it were, adopt a procedure which will satisfy us, our consciences and our approach to the public that we have a procedure. I say to all my colleagues—to my friends on both sides of the House—that we are not playing games. If we have this procedure, we must take it very seriously indeed. We must not have a situation in which debate is rushed, truncated or rationed. There has to be an opportunity to debate and deliberate fully so that we can reassure the public on these matters. I am absolutely certain that if we are to be a parliamentary democracy—I sometimes wonder about this—we have no alternative than the resolutions that are put before us.

There is another thing which I know does not go down well with a lot of people. I totally accept that we in Parliament framed the arrangements for the referendum. I know that we had no threshold of our own volition, but I find it very difficult when I am constantly being told that the will of the people has been expressed. I do not know what this means. A majority voted in favour of the broad position, but there was certainly not a majority of the electorate positively in favour of this position. I am not suggesting that we do other than accept what we did, and we have to live with the results. Having said that, it seems to me to increase even more the moral and real responsibility of Parliament to look to the interests of the whole population in evaluating what is proposed in the negotiations. It is not just a case of the interests of the people who won the referendum but the interests of the whole people. We have that responsibility.