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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Cashman Lord Cashman Labour 12:30 pm, 19th October 2019

My Lords, it is a real pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, and I agree wholeheartedly with his intervention.

The noble Baroness the Leader, in repeating the Statement, referred to resolving the differences and divisions, and I wholeheartedly agree, but how can there be a resolution when the demands and aspirations of over 16 million people—48%—are disregarded? They are people who, as the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, said, are marching on our streets today because they feel unheard and left out of the negotiated deals.

Having read the additional documents published on 17 October, I have to say that my fears about human rights and fundamental rights in the United Kingdom are reinforced, and therefore I am deeply concerned about the human rights landscape that lies ahead of us. However, I will not go down that avenue, as I have been down it frequently in our other debates.

I do not know about your Lordships, but I wake up in the morning to the sound of music—and I do not mean the dulcet tones of Julie Andrews. I listen to commercial radio to remind me of what the real world is like. In certain advertisements about the preparations for leaving the European Union, I am informed that I must prepare for the new restrictions when travelling to, trading with or driving within the European Union. Those are just three examples. Can the Minister tell me where in the arguments that were made for leaving the European Union the British public were told that they would face more restrictions, more red tape and fewer freedoms? I could give other examples of freedoms that citizens will lose: the right to study in and the right to freedom of movement through 27 other countries, and there are many more. Nowhere were the British people told what they would lose; only what they might gain.

In order to move on, as other noble Lords have urged, I say to the Government and to the supporters of their withdrawal Act that, if they believe that this deal is so brilliant and that it is what the British people demanded in 2016 by voting in the referendum by a very narrow majority, then have the guts and integrity to put it to the British public in a confirmatory referendum. They should ask the British public whether they accept this deal, these conditions and all the consequences that will follow. But no; the Government will fight shy of holding the British public accountable—yes, accountable —in this long drawn-out saga. They will utter the phrase “the will of the people”, ignoring that the will of the people can and does change. I do not often quote Lady Thatcher but, to use her word, the Government are “frit”.

In conclusion, during these three years of pantomime politics, aided and abetted by the leadership of the Labour Party in the other place—a party that I have left after 45 years of membership—it has been said that we are being led by donkeys. That is the wrong analogy. Donkeys would have got us somewhere. We are not being led by donkeys; donkeys would have done better. Therefore, it is time to put this deal—if it is the best that the Government can do—back to the British people.