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Brexit: People’s Vote - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:30 pm on 25th October 2018.

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Photo of Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood Chair, Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct 1:30 pm, 25th October 2018

My Lords, although I remain a remainer, I now earnestly hope that the Government will soon be in a position to put a proposed final deal to Parliament and that Parliament will accept it. In that event, I would not support a further referendum with the inevitable delay, disruption and divisiveness and the difficulty in formulating the questions, and so forth, that that would entail. But it seems very far from inevitable that such a position will be arrived at. In that event, I see the likely alternatives to be crashing out of the EU with no deal, or a general election, both of which are appalling prospects. In that situation I would then strongly support the plea for a further referendum—to call it a people’s vote is absurd, as of course is the Prime Minister’s description of it earlier in the week as a politicians’ vote. The referendum question would then be clear: the deal as negotiated or remain.

Today I touch briefly on what seem to be the two central arguments advanced against a further referendum. The first is that it would be undemocratic. But surely, to invite the public to vote again now that much of the misleading rhetoric of 2016 has been exposed and the true options have become altogether clearer, respects rather than ignores public opinion and is the true democratic way. The point is so obvious that it needs no elaboration. The second contention is that the political establishment would be seen as attempting to deprive Brexiteers of the fruits of their earlier victory. But suppose that the majority was now to favour remaining, whether because some voters have changed their minds in the light of their altered perception of the consequences or because a younger generation of voters would now be included, or both, or whatever. In that event, by what logic could Brexiteers claim that their 2016 victory entitles them still to prevail over a contrary majority view? I can see no logic in that at all.

Suppose that a majority in fact continues to favour Brexit, as well it may. Consider the benefits of a further vote to that effect: Brexiteers crowing, confirmed in their view; remainers finally resigned—if not reconciled—to that consequence; and the Government vindicated in their proposed course and substantially immune from the sort of criticism they will be exposed to if and when, following Brexit, things go catastrophically wrong.