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Brexit: People’s Vote - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:31 pm on 25th October 2018.

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Photo of Lord Hain Lord Hain Labour 12:31 pm, 25th October 2018

My Lords, continued Brexit negotiating crises cannot hide a blindingly obvious outcome facing this country. Even if the Prime Minister were to get absolutely everything she has demanded from the European Union under her Chequers plan—which, as Brussels has made clear, is highly unlikely—she would be abandoning the 80% of the economy in the services sector and lumbering taxpayers with a £50 billion divorce bill.

The difference between what was offered by Brexiteers in the June 2016 referendum and what is achievable has been widening into an unbridgeable gulf. As former Conservative Prime Minister John Major has said,

“no form of Brexit will remotely match up to the promises made by the leave campaign in the referendum: they were vote-gathering fantasies, not serious politics. … those who … persuaded a deceived population to vote to be weaker and poorer … will never be forgotten—nor forgiven”.

How can even those who feel obligated by the referendum result justify backing an outcome that will make their constituents worse off, deepen poverty, trigger unemployment, damage the economy, leave us with much less control and less influence on the global stage, and torpedo the Good Friday peace process in Northern Ireland? How is that better than the deal we already have inside the European Union?

Meanwhile the no deal which dogmatic Brexiteers such as Jacob Rees-Mogg cheerfully trumpet would, the Government themselves report, include a series of disasters: customs barriers and tariffs; new visa and driver green cards; the reintroduction of mobile phone roaming charges; the grounding of flights; bans on British hauliers; the loss of existing trade agreements, via the EU, with 70 third countries; and the collapse of the port of Dover on day one.

Moreover, the Government will only guarantee the replacement of European Union regional development funds up to 2020. These have been critical for areas such as Wales. They were worth fully £9.9 billion paid directly to the Welsh Government between 1999 and 2018, excluding substantial funds paid directly to Welsh businesses, universities, groups and individuals.

The Prime Minister is blackmailing MPs and the country by demanding either her terrible Chequers deal or a no-deal Brexit. When did a British Government last threaten Parliament with such an irresponsible choice?

It seems to me that there are now three possible alternatives to either Chequers or a no-deal Brexit. First, force an election to achieve a new Government with a different mandate, but few think that likely. Secondly, vote for a different Brexit model, such as Norway’s alignment to the single market. But that is vigorously opposed by ardent Brexiteers and would, in any event, still mean queues at Dover and a hard border in Ireland, as it does not include a customs agreement. Thirdly, a people’s vote. Parliament should amend the Chequers proposal as it sees fit then put that to the people, handing back to voters the choice between whatever the proposed terms of Brexit are and staying in the European Union.

We began this saga with a people’s vote in 2016, which decided narrowly to leave. We should end it with a people’s vote to decide whether any deal, or no deal, is really what voters wanted all along, or whether, given the chaos and damage that now beckon, they want to think again and remain within the European Union.