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Brexit: People’s Vote - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:50 am on 25th October 2018.

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Photo of Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Defence) 11:50 am, 25th October 2018

In the case of Greece, membership of the European Union brought an end to the dictatorship. In the case of Italy, it allowed that country to embark upon reconstruction of its infrastructure, which might not otherwise have been available. In addition, so far as I know there are not yet many movements in either Greece or Italy to leave the European Union, nor indeed to give up the benefits which it allows.

The quotations to which I referred do not understand the fundamental emotion, if you like, which is to be found in the attitude of Germany. For a long time after 1945, Germany was influenced by a sense of guilt. It is perfectly clear from Mrs Merkel that Germany is now influenced by a strong sense of responsibility to protect the structures which stand in the way of the terrors of death and destruction which were seen in the first half of the 20th century. That has produced this attitude: if you want to leave the European Union, that is your prerogative, but you cannot pick and mix the advantages of membership once you have gone. Allow it once, and others may want to do the same, and there will be a break-up of the structure which has been of such importance to those countries who joined it. In the unlikely event that we left NATO, we would no longer expect to be able to rely on Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty—how could we? The simple fact is that as soon as you are outside the European Union, you become a third party, with which the European Union will be willing to co-operate but not to the prejudice of its core values. That is why I say that the Prime Minister’s continuing optimism to the contrary is misplaced.

None of those who thought it was going to be easy ever understood the central obstacle of the constitutional values of the European Union and its determination to protect them. Nor indeed did anyone anticipate the viciousness of the battle for the soul of the Conservative Party, to a point where some commentators even say that its continued existence is at stake. Now we hear that the Prime Minister may have enjoyed a temporary and no doubt welcome respite following events yesterday evening, but none of that deals with the question of the 5% which she recently told us she still had to achieve. Since we have had Conservatives in government, they must take responsibility, first of all, for the determination to have the referendum and its consequences.

We should consider some of the mistakes made: first, Mr David Cameron’s insistence on calling a referendum rather than toughing it out against UKIP and its fellow travellers in his own party, and then the lacklustre and complacent campaign against leaving, headed up by Mr George Osborne.