Brexit: Negotiations - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:38 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) 9:38 pm, 20th November 2018

I am obliged to the noble Lord for reminding me of his question. Under the provisions of the withdrawal agreement, if there is a question as to the interpretation of a point of EU law, the interpretation must be given by the arbitration panel to the Court of Justice of the European Union, which will determine that point. The application of that interpretation of European law will be a matter for the arbitration panel, not the court. That is why we have an independent arbitration panel and it is why I took issue with the way in which the noble Lord sought to characterise the matter. At the end of the day, the issues that the arbitration panel will be addressing will, no doubt, involve mixed questions of fact and law. The panel will be masters of the fact, apply the law and make a determination on that mixed basis.

I am told that I have three minutes left. That being so—I know that noble Lords would want me to have another 30 minutes—I will quickly go through some of the issues which were touched upon but which I have not yet addressed. Many noble Lords talked about a people’s referendum. I hope that I have made the point that that simply does not accord with our democratic principles, nor does it reflect the will of the people when they voted in the referendum. I was quite taken by the observation of the noble Lord, Lord Warner. He said that only 38% of the electorate voted to leave. That is 17.4 million people and, under our democratic traditions, is what we call a majority.