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Brexit: People’s Vote - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:10 pm on 25th October 2018.

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Photo of Lord Bilimoria Lord Bilimoria Crossbench 1:10 pm, 25th October 2018

My Lords, in February 2016, when the referendum was called, the EU did not even feature in the top 10 things in the British people’s minds. They had four months to make a decision about such a complex issue—I have been in the thick of it for two and a half years and I am still learning. For the previous two referenda that we had, the results were 67% conclusive; this result was 52:48. While 17.2 million people is a huge amount, what about the 16 million people—also a huge amount—who voted to remain? We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Sugar, and others about the lies and the £350 million on the back of the bus. Nigel Farage himself said that if the result had been 52:48 to remain, he would fight for a second referendum. What a hypocrite.

Now we are told that this is the will and the instruction of the people and that we have to implement it. But the world has changed in two and a half years: Turkey is not going to join the EU; the migration crisis that scared so many people at its peak in 2015 has receded significantly, sad though it still is; Trump is President; there is a trade war with China; and we have seen in such an awful way what is happening with Russia’s influence. Some 100 leave constituencies have now changed to remain constituencies, according to the polls and—this is the most important thing— there are youngsters, including two of my children who were not old enough to vote at the referendum, who are now old enough to vote and it is their future that we are talking about. When it comes to the youth, 90% want to remain. Is this democracy? A dynamic democracy moves along. In a normal electoral cycle of five years, what happens? By March 2019, we will be two-thirds of the way through a normal electoral cycle and we are being held to something that is two and a half years out of date already. In a normal electoral cycle, if you win by one vote or 0.1%, you have won. But then, in five years’ time, if people do not like you, if you have lied or misled, they can just change their mind and chuck you out. Now we are being told by people like Jacob Rees-Mogg that, “It’s the long term. It’s 50 years”. Well, as Keynes said:

“In the long run we are all dead”.

This is all absolute nonsense. Some 700,000 have marched—the most since the march against the Iraq war. As the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, has pointed out, the polls are now 45:35 for a public vote on the outcome, which increases to 50:25 if there is no deal. The Prime Minister has said time and again that:

“No deal is better than a bad deal”,

but that is rubbish. Chuck Chequers? You chuck rubbish. What about Canada-plus-plus-plus? Forget the fact that it took eight years to agree a deal with Canada—it does not work. And the backstop is a conundrum. Northern Ireland is the Brexit Achilles heel. Further, going global is a nonsense. Today, 45% of our trade is with the EU—it may be receding—and 20% on top of that is FTAs through the EU. So 65% of our trade comes through the EU—do we want to give that up for the 35% that we do not have, including the Commonwealth, which makes up only 9% of our trade? That is £8 billion—and I would pay that for the peace that we have had in our decades in the European Union. People say, “But what about all the laws that are put on us by the European Union?” That is rubbish: the laws are made by us here in this Parliament; I have seen that for 12 years.

This is all absolutely ridiculous, with all the equivalence and trying to get as good as it gets—I thought that things were going to get better. As for parliamentary democracy, there is a lot wrong with the EU—I do not like the euro or the way that the European Parliament works—but, on balance, we are far better off remaining in the European Union for the sake of our citizens, our economy and our business. We have had our cake and we have been eating it too for 45 years. We now have the tyranny of the majority: Northern Ireland voted to remain; Scotland voted to remain; London voted to remain; business voted to remain; the youth voted to remain. Our union has been threatened. We have been sold a pup and now the Government want to bypass Parliament by not giving us a meaningful vote. The British people are being bulldozed into this train crash.

What saddens me most is that Britain is losing its standing in the world day by day. London has already lost its position as the number one financial centre in the world to New York. The truly democratic thing for us to do would be to go back to the people and say, “Now you have the facts—not the utopia, not the dream, but the reality. If we have a deal, do you prefer the deal or to remain? If there is no deal, would you rather remain?” That would respect the will of the people.