European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:51 am on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 11:51 am, 5th September 2019

My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, for introducing the Bill. As has been said, a broad coalition came together to support this short Bill, which is simple and has a narrow focus: to prevent a crash-out Brexit for which there is no mandate. As Hilary Benn MP said, preventing a no-deal Brexit is the central most important question facing the country. The new MP Jane Dodds, who made her maiden speech yesterday, gave an illustration of what would happen to sheep farmers in her constituency.

I pay tribute to the responsible senior politicians from all parties who came together in the national interest. As we know, that included two distinguished Conservative former Chancellors of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke. What is notable is that many people have commented that it is an odd world in which an individual’s Conservatism is measured by how recklessly they wish to leave the EU. We are in a topsy-turvy world.

Supporters of the Bill are open about the fact that, beyond preventing the devastating harm and disruption of no deal, they have very different views on how to resolve the Brexit question. None of those options is precluded by the Bill, which, as I said, has a narrow scope. As Alistair Burt, one of the co-sponsors of the Bill, said,

“is the Bill a stumbling block to negotiations? No, it is not. The Bill does not prevent the Prime Minister or the Government from negotiating”.—[Official Report, Commons,4/9/19; col.224.]

It simply prevents no deal unless the Commons agrees to it and gives the Commons powers over the extension process—so it is taking back control to Parliament in action rather than in empty rhetoric.