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My Lords, we should remain in the European Union as a full and voting member. By “we” I mean of course the people not only of England and Wales, but of the entirety of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland and Scotland. We should remain in the European Union for two reasons. First and foremost, it is the right thing to do. We have heard from many colleagues in the Lords today and yesterday why it is the right thing to do. That has become increasingly apparent and obvious.
Secondly, we should remain because that increasingly seems the current public will. No one on the remain side or with an open mind will believe the contrary, unless and until there is a say for the people and the majority are for Brexit in the present circumstances, which I very much doubt. No one on the leave side believes that the public would support Brexit either. If they did they would welcome, not oppose, the people having a say on the issue, which the politicians have shown themselves incapable of resolving on their behalf.
It will be noted that I have referred to a say for the people in their present state of knowledge. I have not referred, and do not refer, to a second referendum. A referendum would be either the first referendum in the current circumstances, or a third referendum. The one thing it would and could not be is a second referendum. We had the first referendum in 1975—I declare an interest in that I voted for us to continue, after the temporary measure, being in the European Union. It is now two-all in terms of referenda, and the second referendum was two-all in terms of the constituent elements of the United Kingdom.
It will rightly be said that we cannot be governed in 2019 by a referendum of 1975. It can rightly be said that it was a long time ago and that circumstances have changed since in numerous respects, that we should not be ruled from the grave by those who have since died, that those who had not by then reached adulthood should not be disfranchised, and that we should all be entitled to change our minds. All that is true, but the point is that all that applies with force to the second referendum way back in the summer of 2016. It is a historical fact, nothing more. It is no impediment at all for present purposes. It has become a total irrelevance. Its shelf life has long expired. We must move on in the right direction.