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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:17 pm on 4th April 2019.

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Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Labour 8:17 pm, 4th April 2019

The noble Lord makes a very powerful further argument for the second referendum. I support his argument; he will make his speech later and I hope he will develop that important point. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that, because we have not been able to produce a Brexit that lives up to the promises made three years ago, and because there is not—let us be frank—a parliamentary majority prepared to support it on principle, I think the only compromise that is now viable for the country at large is to put that deal to the people, because it is technically possible to implement it, but with an alternative option to stay in the European Union. It is my view that the majority will vote for the option to stay in the European Union because it is now so obviously preferable to the Prime Minister’s deal, and the £39 billion that we would pay the EU for worse trade and economic terms than we have now—the arguments go on. The people could make that judgment.

I will make one final remark about the situation we now face. One former leader of the Conservative Party, the noble Lord, Lord Howard, has spoken and made a very hard-line speech, if I may say so, about how we need to leave with no deal. An equally significant intervention was made this week by another former leader of that party, a Member of this House who, alas, is not in his place and speaking this evening, the noble Lord, Lord Hague of Richmond. On Tuesday, he wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph and it is very important for those engaged in the Brexit debate to read it. I would particularly recommend it to noble Lords on the Conservative Benches and maybe even more so to Conservative MPs, many of whom, from my watching of debates in the House of Commons, have become extremely hard-line and militant on this issue of the need for a no-deal Brexit.

This is what the noble Lord, Lord Hague, wrote:

“Do not underestimate … the immense danger of continuing to pull apart from each other while the public looks on with an irritation that is now turning to dismay, and at any moment could turn to anger … the Conservatives are inevitably identified with the Brexit project, for good or ill, and slowly, steadily, the case for Brexit is being lost … The Conservatives … face the terrible double prospect of voters shifting away from supporting their central policy, while those who do support it become enraged by the failure to deliver it … My advice to my old colleagues is therefore this: if you don't get Brexit over the line now, it will probably never happen”.

Brexit has not been got over the line; it will probably never happen. The right thing for the nation, and maybe even for the Conservative Party, is for it to be buried, for the nightmare to end and for us then to carry on our national life in a much better prospect.