My Lords, the Prime Minister has said these things for two and a half years: Brexit means Brexit; no deal is better than a bad deal; we will leave the EU on
Now we are told that we must implement the will and instructions of the British people. Time and again, we have been told that 17.4 million people voted to leave. What about the rest of the 50 million people in Britain, including the 16.1 million people who voted to remain? What about Scotland, London, Northern Ireland and young people, all of whom voted to remain? Two and a half years after the referendum, the country is being held to ransom by a narrow decision made by just over 25% of our population.
Throughout the negotiations, we talked about equivalence and asked whether we would get something as good as what we have now as part of the European Union. This deal is not about protecting jobs, security and the integrity of the UK, as the Prime Minister said. Northern Ireland, the Achilles heel of Brexit, remains a circle that cannot be squared without jeopardising the Good Friday agreement and the almost-century-old common travel area. What a mess we are in. This is now a hokey-cokey Brexit; it is a case of in and out and shake it all about, as said by the noble Lord, Lord Reid.
The EU is not perfect but it is not the bogeyman. It has not bullied us; Michel Barnier has followed the instructions of 27 other countries. The EU has said, “You, the UK, want to leave and have boxed yourself in with red lines. You opted into Europe 45 years ago but you have had your cake and eaten it because you have had all the opt-outs too. We are talking about the biggest and best free trade agreement in the world, yet you are not in the eurozone, you are not part of the Schengen agreement and you are not for further unification. Now you want to opt out but have all the opt-ins”.
We are losing our sovereignty. Day by day, we are losing our standing in the world. No one in the world, including the EU, wants us to leave. London has already lost to New York its number one spot as a leading financial centre. In future, we will not be at the top table. As said by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, we will pay but have no say. Two-thirds of MPs and 75% of this House wanted to remain in the EU at the time of the referendum. What has happened to our precious representative democracy, spoken about by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins? Do we have the guts to do the right thing for our country?
No deal is not an option. That is pretty unanimous. So the choice is between this deal and a transition period until 2020 or possibly 2022—the can has been kicked down the road—with a backstop that we may be held to inordinately. Two-thirds of our global trade is already with and through the EU. We have a six-and-a-half-page political declaration being finalised in six and a half days. What a fudge this is; it is a blind Brexit. Spain is already talking about having a veto over Gibraltar. The French are already talking about their fishing rights. The British public have been sold a pup. This is not in the best interests of our economy, businesses or citizens.
What about the 800,000 children born every year in this country? Since 2016, that makes almost 2 million more 16 and 17 year-olds who would be allowed to vote today. If the transition period goes on until 2022, almost 5 million young people will not have a say when their future is at risk. We have to break the spell. It would be democratic, after two and a half years—a normal democratic cycle—to go back to the people and say, “If you have changed your minds or do not like what you see, you can vote differently”. The polls already show that 100 leave constituencies now want to remain. Last week, straight after the Prime Minister’s Statement, 54% would have voted to remain, as opposed to 48% in 2016, and 55% wanted a second referendum.
If we really want to respect the will of the people this should not be Hobson’s choice of a deal or no deal, and a bad deal at that. The British people can get their future back by choosing the Prime Minister’s newly declared option: no Brexit. We need a people’s vote. That would stop this train crash, save our union, respect the will of our people and do the right thing for the British people.