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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:03 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 1:03 pm, 19th October 2019

My Lords, there have been a lot of mentions today of the last time Parliament met on a Saturday. On that occasion, I had the great privilege of participating in the debate in the other place, and a really dramatic debate it was. I am not the only speaker today, however, who spoke in it. The other is our parliamentary national treasure the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, whose speech I look forward to later—although my noble friend Lord Rooker intervened from a sedentary position. Nothing changes. The late Lord Carrington, who led the debate, is very sadly no longer able to be with us but neither is the honourable tradition of ministerial resignation, which he showed on the Falklands, although he had no personal responsibility or fault then.

Today we have two questions: how did we get into this mess and how do we get out of it? David Cameron is the prime culprit—for trying to solve the chronic Tory division on Europe not by trying to reform the European Union to make it more acceptable to us, but by this referendum. He then ran a feeble campaign—nearly as feeble as my own leader’s. The skulduggery of the leavers, who were more astonished by their victory than the rest of us, was part of the reason we are in this mess now. Theresa May missed every opportunity to get out of it and now we have this cliffhanger down the Corridor.

I cannot fault the PM for his determination, his sleight of hand or his back slapping—it makes a change from back stabbing—but I can fault him for his duplicity, as other noble Lords have said: that is how he achieved this deal. I understand the Liberal Democrats wishing to grab the opportunity of leading the remain campaign. We are not going to let them, by the way; we are equally part of it. I understand the SNP’s desperation to get an election before they are faced with the trial of the century, which will be fascinating. However, I am astonished by any Labour MP supporting Johnson’s deal. First, so-called Labour leave constituencies are mirages. It was the Tories and the Brexit voters in those constituencies who voted to leave. Most Labour voters voted to remain, and now they will be tempted to go to the Liberal Democrats or the Greens. What a false thing the Labour MPs in those constituencies are doing .

Secondly, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds rightly said, MPs are not delegates. They have a duty to lead, not to follow—to convert and convince their electorate. I did it as an MP, as did my noble friend Lord Reid and others. We convinced them on capital punishment, on abortion, on devolution and, indeed, on Europe. The Labour Party used to be against it; we convinced them to be in favour of it. As my noble friend Lord Rooker said, Europe is a beacon on food safety, workers’ rights, consumer protection and environmental protection. That is why we should be staying in Europe. Any assurances that Labour MPs get from this Prime Minister are totally worthless. He is, we know, an inveterate liar and the sooner people recognise that the better. Mark my words: if one Labour MP helps Boris Johnson to get a majority of one, he or she will rue this day. I hope there is not; I hope the agreement will be defeated. Like so many on this side of the Chamber—and, indeed, some on the other—I hope we will go back to the people and, now that we know the reality of Brexit, give them the opportunity to decide the way forward once again.