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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Norton, suggested, in contrast to an election, where a political party stands on a manifesto and then has responsibility to implement it, with a referendum, there is no responsibility on those proposing change either to offer something viable—in the words of my noble friend Lord Adonis—or to take the reins afterwards and implement the decision. Yet the public expect a referendum to be implemented. But when proponents of change make unachievable promises, such as Boris Johnson’s,
“There will continue to be free trade”,
“free access for their cars … in exchange for a deal on everything else”,
and then wash their hands of how to fulfil those promises, even when appointed to do so, we are in trouble.
Worse, Boris Johnson is now threatening not even to pay the money we owe—although he agreed to it when he was in Cabinet—and says that he would take us out on
This particular referendum, on a complex economic, political, diplomatic and security issue, is testimony to the clash with our normal parliamentary democracy, where normally Governments are responsible for implementing the promises that they made in a general election. In this case, the costs to the economy are enormous. The uncertainty for business is costing billions. Reduced investment and preparations for no deal are costing hundreds of millions. Manufacturing representatives said today that a no-deal Brexit would be “commercial suicide”. The Cabinet has been warned that we are unprepared for a crash out. There is bewilderment among the CBI, BCC and Federation of Small Businesses at home and, as we have heard, Governments across the globe.
This referendum, and government incompetence, could lay waste to our economy. It is hardly a good advertisement for governing by referendum.