Brexit: Stability of the Union - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:52 pm on 17th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown DUP 1:52 pm, 17th January 2019

My Lords, originally I did not intend to speak but quite a number of misleading statements concerning my party have been made during this debate and they should not go unanswered.

I have no doubt that Brexit has presented a great challenge to the people of the United Kingdom and a great challenge to the Government. However, it was decided by the people of the United Kingdom that the UK should leave the EU, and that must be honoured. One could of course ask how we got there. We did not get there by chance. Looking back over history, I was reminded that a certain Nick Clegg walked out of the Commons on 26 February 2008 when the then Speaker, Michael Martin, refused to call a Liberal Democrat amendment demanding a referendum on the EU. Another Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament was then expelled from the Chamber. In their 2010 election manifesto, the Liberal Democrats called for a national vote on UK membership of the EU. The only problem was that, when they got it, they did not like the result, but of course that is not how democracy works. When you call a referendum and ask the people their view, you should respect the will of the people.

During the previous debate on Brexit, the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, said that I had suggested that we should discount the 88% of the nationalists who voted against Brexit. I did not say that they should be discounted; I said that 56% of the people of Northern Ireland voted to remain and 44% for Brexit, but 66% of unionists voted for Brexit. I remind this House that seven Members in another place were elected and the only barrier to them coming to the United Kingdom Parliament is the barrier that they themselves have erected. They can certainly speak for the 88% of nationalists but I am proud to speak as a unionist. I believe that the Brexit vote was taken not as a regional vote but as a vote for the whole of the United Kingdom.

There was also mention of the threat of violence. That is a very serious matter to raise. Coming from a part of the country and from a family that have endured the reality of violence and the murder of my loved ones, I suggest that we should not even be talking about the threat of violence if the Government continue with Brexit.

This is a serious matter and we are faced with a problem. The Prime Minister has offered to have talks across all the parties but the leader of the Labour Party has slammed that offer as a stunt. I believe that all parties are obliged by the people to seek a way forward to gain a resolution to this vital issue. She has offered talks and it would be remiss if we did not take them up in a constructive way, seeking a way forward for the people of Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.