My Lords, all of those who took part in the debates which set up the 2016 referendum were absolutely clear that what we were legislating for was an advisory referendum, not a mandatory one. But the morning after the result was announced, the Government immediately took the view that we should treat it as if it were a mandatory referendum. That was despite the fact that the campaign itself was riddled with lies, fake information and deception. It is also the case that perhaps the worst lie of all was that leaving the European Union was going to be simple. No one in the Chamber this evening would take that view.
But it has presented the Prime Minister with an immensely difficult task, and we must give credit to the stamina and determination which she has shown in pursuing that objective. However, the last thing we need at this moment, I believe, is a change of Prime Minister. I have been appalled by the way in which various members of my own party have sought to undermine her position at such a difficult time.
We have been very clear that the alternatives are: this deal, no deal or no Brexit. The Prime Minister herself has put it in those terms. I am quite clear myself that, of those three alternatives, as far as the future of this country is concerned, the best thing we can do is have no Brexit. That is what we ought to aim to do, but we are stuck with the result of the referendum and therefore there is now enormous pressure for a second referendum.
The question now is: if we are not to do it by referendum, what should happen? This is the time when Parliament has to look at the three alternatives and should say that, in the interests of our country, we must not go ahead with the proposal to withdraw. Here I agree with the noble Baroness who spoke from the Liberal Benches, and indeed I detect a growing feeling in the House that we ought to stand up and take that position so that we do what is right for the economy and the people of this country. It is a great regret that we did not have a vote on whether we accepted the referendum result. I think that it is high time we did.