European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:55 pm on 4th April 2019.

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Photo of Lord Hannay of Chiswick Lord Hannay of Chiswick Crossbench 7:55 pm, 4th April 2019

I am sorry to say that some of the noble Lord’s friends this afternoon did not even have the courtesy to give way when I tried to speak, so I have no intention of answering his intervention, which is nothing whatever to do with what I have said. I said that we should set a new course in our relationship with the European Union.

The question of the European Parliament elections cannot be completely discounted at this stage, but I do not think that we should allow that complication to be an impediment to a longer extension of the Article 50 period. There is no harm at all to be found in our participating in those elections. Obviously, should we definitively leave after the elections, the result would not be followed through. I would be grateful if the Minister, when he replies to this debate, could confirm reports that I have seen that the Government are in fact making the necessary preparations to hold a vote on 23 May if we are still in the European Union on that date. It would be really helpful to have that point made clearly, because we could then stop fussing too much about it.

I do not think that the issue of a consultation with the electorate will go away. It is not part of this legislation and therefore I will not go into great detail about it. I will say merely that so much has changed and so much is different from what was put to the people in 2016 that it would be little short of shameful if we did not consult them again. Of course, they might give the same answer as they gave before. So be it, if that is their answer—but they ought to be given the opportunity, I hope that in the not too distant future, when there is a clear picture of what Brexit means—not just “Brexit” but what it means in detail—they will have a chance to have their say.