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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:31 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Smith of Newnham Baroness Smith of Newnham Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence) 4:31 pm, 2nd October 2019

My Lords, I am delighted to take that intervention, and particularly delighted that I am taking it not from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench. Four years ago, when I was speaking from the Front Bench on the referendum Bill, I was intervened upon by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, who, when I said I was rather sad to be having to speak in a debate about a referendum, reminded me that the Liberal Democrat position had indeed been to support an in/out referendum. That has been our party policy. Like that of other parties, the Liberal Democrat position is one—

I hear from a sedentary position something about opportunism. I am a Liberal Democrat; I believe in democracy. I did not vote against triggering Article 50. I personally accept the result of the referendum but, as we have already heard, Michael Gove, who is currently responsible for the Government’s no-deal preparations, also said we were not preparing for a no-deal Brexit. That was not what people voted for.

We are in a position in which Parliament is incapable of delivering Brexit unless this Prime Minister manages to pull a rabbit out of a hat with his letter to Jean-Claude Juncker.

I can hear my Whip saying “time”. However, I was intervened on, and nobody else has so far taken any notice of the Clock, so at this stage I am not going to either.

We are in a position in which the Government have not been able to deliver Brexit and Parliament has not been able to come to a solution. The way around that is another referendum. The Liberal Democrat position is that if a general election came first and we had a majority, we would want to revoke—so be it—but we are not at that stage.

I would have had another minute had I not been intervened on. I ask the Minister: what are the Government proposing to do? Unlike other noble Lords, I will assume that the Prime Minister gets his deal on 17 October and we get to the point of the House of Commons accepting the deal. That might be 19 or 21 October. Do we not need a withdrawal implementation Bill to deal with that agreement? How do the Government propose to get that through Parliament? There was filibustering from the Government Benches when we tried to get through a very brief piece of legislation before the non-Prorogation. This would be a much more serious piece of legislation. Do the Government really envisage getting it through both Houses in 10 days—calendar days, not working days? If so, how does the Minister propose to do that?