European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Second Reading (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:10 pm on 30th January 2018.

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Photo of Lord Hamilton of Epsom Lord Hamilton of Epsom Conservative 6:10 pm, 30th January 2018

My Lords, I shall address the amendment to the Second Reading of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, which calls for a second referendum. It has rather been dismissed because noble Lords say that this is not the Bill to amend in that way so we should not consider it. But we should consider it because around the House there seems to be a certain amount of support for the whole idea of a second referendum. That raises more questions in my mind than it answers.

The first question is: when would we have the second referendum? Would it be in October this year, when the negotiations should have been completed and before it is ratified by the 27 different countries in the EU and the EU Parliament? Or, would it be when the agreement had come back, having been ratified in March next year, just before we leave the EU under the Article 50 provisions? Or, let us face it, the devil is always in the detail, and we could go through the next 21 months laid down by Michel Barnier and have the final agreement with the EU. The problem is that at that point we would have left. There is a timing problem that needs to be addressed by those in favour of a second referendum.

The next question is what you put on the ballot paper. Do you ask: “Do you like this deal, and if you do, do you want to stay in the EU?”, “Do you dislike this deal and still want to stay in the EU?”, or “Do you dislike this deal and would like to leave the EU”? It is complicated, whichever way you look at it. It is so complicated that all it would do is create more confusion, rather than anything else.

Then there is the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, who would like a parliamentary vote to say that we have changed our minds and we will stay in the EU. I ask him what position that puts me in. I have campaigned to leave the EU but Parliament tells me that I cannot. There I am, with a decent majority in the country who voted in the referendum to leave, but Parliament says, “No, it was all a great mistake and we should stay in”. I have no option then but to take to the streets because I cannot get any representation in Parliament. All I can do is protest outside Parliament.