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My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, for securing this debate. To try to overturn the people’s vote of 2016 through another referendum would be like saying that a general election result should be invalidated less than half way through a Government’s term of office, simply because they were not doing well in the opinion polls. It would be totally undemocratic. No less undemocratic would be for the establishment to thwart the outcome of the people’s vote in the 2016 referendum, yet that is the prospect which I fear we are facing.
If we failed genuinely to leave the EU, the rest of this Parliament would become a fruitless attempt to rebuild trust with the majority who voted to leave in the people’s vote of 2016. I am afraid that the chances of such an attempt succeeding are about the same as the chances of Chequers delivering Brexit.
My noble friend Lord Lamont of Lerwick alluded to the false argument that a second referendum would be healing. I agree with him that it would not. Similarly, extending a transition period for a possibly permanently temporary period, while paying for the privilege of being subject to laws over which we would have even less say than before we supposedly left, would only prolong the agony. By contrast, as we have already heard, having the confidence to leave now on the basis of a Canada-plus free trade deal or, if necessary, on WTO terms if the EU fails to compromise, holds out the prospect of stability and prosperity free of an increasingly unstable EU, whose eurozone looks increasingly likely to collapse. Otherwise, I fear that when the people realise that, despite our protestations that we have left the EU, we are actually still having to do what the ECJ tells us, then far from getting better, the pain will only get worse.
We cannot claim, as an unelected legislature, to represent the people. That is why the responsibility of the elected House to stand up for Brexit is so much greater. I therefore appeal to colleagues in the other place to look beyond the fog of Brexit fatigue and the understandable desire to settle for a deal—any deal. I urge them to reflect on the punishment that the people would rightly inflict on those who promised to honour the result of the 2016 people’s vote, only to betray their trust and do the opposite. In deeds as well as warm words, the people’s vote in the 2016 referendum must be honoured.