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My Lords, to put this debate in context, we need to understand the claims of those who say that further public consultation on Brexit is not needed because the public voted for Brexit, they knew exactly for what they were voting for and it would be undemocratic to revisit the issue. The reality is that the public voted on the principle of leaving: they voted for a blank canvas on to which many different and contradictory hopes and aspirations were painted, and now that the picture is becoming clearer, it is obvious that what the leave campaign promised is simply not on offer. So it is not undemocratic to give people the opportunity to vote on the final deal, including the option to remain. Indeed, many of us know people who want that chance, such as those who saw that insidious, mendacious advert on the leave bus, which suggested that the NHS could be richer by an additional £350 million a week if people voted to leave.
One such person was my friend Jane, who voted to leave because of that advert. She felt she had no choice because her two daughters are doctors and she knew how desperately the NHS needed money. Of course, now it is clear that the NHS will not get any extra money—because of Brexit less money is available, because the economy has slowed down—she bitterly regrets the way that she voted.
That is not the only false claim that the Brexiteers made. There was also the wickedly dishonest argument that we needed to leave the EU to stop 80 million Turks arriving in the UK, and that free from the shackles of the EU, countries around the world would be queuing up to do trade deals with us. But the whole idea of finding new markets is a fantasy. Most countries already have special preferential deals with the EU, including Canada. Japan, Australia and New Zealand are already negotiating one, so Britain will start from a disadvantage once it leaves the EU. The only major country that will or may be interested in a special relationship with Britain is the United States—but crucially, it would be on the United States’ terms, which could result in dilution of our food standards. President Trump has already been very clear that he is more interested in a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the EU rather than the UK, because of the size of its market compared to ours.
But the failure of campaigners for Brexit to understand the complexities of the Irish border has been the single biggest failure of the whole process. As somebody who was born and brought up in Ireland, it just fills me with horror. The level of ignorance shown on this issue by key politicians is almost beyond belief. Arlene Foster’s recent interview in the Daily Telegraph, in which she said that some parts of the Good Friday agreement could be changed in the light of Brexit, and that the agreement was not sacrosanct, was beyond irresponsible.
Just as the outrageous claim by Boris Johnson—