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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:34 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Dykes Lord Dykes Liberal Democrat 6:34 pm, 2nd October 2019

My Lords, I very much thank the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, for his remarks. I agree with every single comment he made. We thank him.

I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi. I think he is the only person I have ever seen getting up late in a debate—I have never seen it before. I forgive him because he made a very amusing speech.

I am also thankful for the speeches by the noble Lords, Lord Livermore, Lord Monks and Lord Taverne, as well as by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for showing once again that the madness is still carrying on but will not last forever. We know that it is coming to its nemesis. No one knows when, but I think and hope that it is fairly soon.

I liked that, on 5 September, the front page of the Daily Mirror—a very strongly pro-European newspaper —said “Britain’s worst PM”, with a large picture of Boris, of course. It then said: “(since the last one)”. I still very strongly blame Theresa May, who had the wonderful opportunity in the election on 8 June 2017 to say, “I have lost the mandate that I was seeking. I had a 20-point lead when I launched this campaign. That no longer exists. We must therefore have a national consultation in this country about the way forward and what we do, involving everybody”. She did not, but repeated the absurd mantra, “Brexit means Brexit”. The nightmare continued.

We still have the nightmare, with an even worse Prime Minister—I think I help Theresa May a little bit by saying that—in the form of Boris Johnson. He is a person who has only a glancing relationship with true facts and says that he definitely did not do something but cannot actually remember, which is a unique new way for him to say, “Once again, I am indulging in a terminological inexactitude, as I am accustomed to do”. What a pity that we have this nightmare continuing and it is taking longer than we were originally hoping—those of us who wanted, after the 8 June election, to see a change and common sense beginning to prevail.

The Conservative Party used to be a wonderful and encouraging party of moderate views. I was a member of it and an MP in the House of Commons for many years. As the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, said, there were very excellent, eminent people—Harold Macmillan, Edward Heath and others led the party to great success. Macmillan was a convinced European, partly because of his memory of the First World War.

The lead that we get in the Lords now is because the Lords has a built-in majority for Europe, which is always very comforting for us who join that majority in these debates. We thank above all the Liberal Democrat group in this House, who have the maximalist attitude towards positive views on Europe. They believe themselves à outrance—for others, of course—that there should not even be any further contest and that we should go straight into the withdrawal legislation and then decide to extend the date.

This stance that we have now in the Lords also mirrors the striking change in public opinion away from the 2016 referendum. We need to remind ourselves that it was advisory—giving an opinion. Cameron deciding to say, “I will immediately accept the result of that referendum” was a matter for him—yet another mistake by a Tory Prime Minster in more recent times. We are living with the effects of that. His book has not convinced many people of his wisdom as a Prime Minister.

We now have this change in atmosphere, public opinion and views. The people’s marches have gone from 100,000 originally to 700,000, and to 1 million last time—in October last year. I am sure that we are due to see more than that at the march on 19 October. Nearly 70% of the voting public have become anti-Brexit. People may think that that figure sounds too high, but it is not. It is true from all the analyses given by the various polling examinations and private research.

The Prime Minister—known for his lack of wisdom in all respects, I am afraid—was supported by 97,000 original votes, mostly from elderly, disgruntled Tory association members. I think that the total Tory membership is now 130,000—there may be one or two hangers-on from the previous Brexit Party formation, UKIP and so on, but I would guess that that is the rough figure. That is fewer than the Liberal Democrats, who have 140,000 members. We see Labour with more than 500,000 members, most of whom are much younger people who, as other speakers have said, regret the tragedy of losing free movement in Europe above all—for their careers, holidays, working, meeting other people, learning languages, all the precious things that the younger generation in this multinational and multi-ethnic country want in the future.

Instead we have this: the majority against Europe is only in England. The majorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and now in Wales—it has changed there—are strongly pro-Europe. That is the reality. We must show this phoney PM with his phoney views that the time is now up. The DUP remains the most unpopular and unsavoury party in Northern Ireland. Its views are dismissed by more and more people there. Brexit is absurd. England needs to grow up and live in the real world with the other countries of the United Kingdom.