European Council - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:20 pm on 11th April 2019.

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Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench 3:20 pm, 11th April 2019

I think that we have to try to rise to the level of events. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, was quite right to talk about the humiliating spectacle last night. The last time we debated a European Council, the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, spoke of his shame. I feel that. I think that we should all feel that. This is not the United Kingdom that we know. The twin cements of our parliamentary democracy are Cabinet solidarity and the ability to muster a majority in the House of Commons to deliver on the principal planks of the Government’s programme. Neither of these conditions seems to apply in the case of Brexit. In my view, that means that we need to think about a general election. I do not believe that the Fixed-term Parliaments Act was a good idea. The Prime Minister has demonstrated that it is possible to escape the Act’s confines. That is where I believe we should go. When parliamentary democracy is stuck, one should consult the people. I am disappointed that the Prime Minister referred three times in her Statement to the undesirability of European Parliament elections. What is wrong with consulting the people? That would be quite a good test of where public opinion now is on this issue. What is wrong with having a general election with a view to getting a Government who can take decisions and get them through the House of Commons? What is wrong with a second referendum? It is a long time since the first one. Why do we not check what the will of the people actually is?