Further Developments in Discussions with the European Union under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union - Motion to Take Note (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:17 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Inglewood Lord Inglewood Conservative 6:17 pm, 11th March 2019

My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register and I shall begin as the noble Lord, Lord Horam, did, with the proposition with which we can all concur: we are in a mess.

I had planned to make a longer speech but everything has been said. It is just important to underscore the fact that Brexit is both a cause and a symptom of our domestic political problems. We need to bear that in mind in the context of this debate. What has slightly surprised me is the number of speakers who have said that there has been no change. There has been one very important change, and that is that time has moved on. As Dr Johnson put it, the prospect of being hanged on the morrow concentrates the mind.

I think we can all agree that, basically, there are three possible choices before the country. We accept the Prime Minister’s deal, there is no deal, or we seek an extension. For my part, I dislike the Prime Minister’s deal for the reasons spelled out by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr. In particular, we in this country have not fully appreciated that there is a great difference between negotiating in a group of 28 where you are all part of the same side as opposed to being one against the other 27. I dislike no deal more than that, which leaves the third option.

As a general political principle, as the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, said, Parliament is sovereign and cannot bind its successors. It therefore seems entirely legitimate that if Parliament does not like either of the two other possibilities, it should see whether it can seek an extension and we shall see what happens. What happens will be revealed to us in general terms by the end of the month. If we cannot get an extension that we wish to proceed with, we do not have to do it.

And then there were two. We are in world unfamiliar to our great country. We are in one of, in Harold Macmillan’s words, “Events, dear boy”. It is a strange irony that a campaign launched under the banner of taking back control should be delivering a political crisis where it is “Events, dear boy” that will determine the outcome.