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Early Parliamentary General Election Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:09 pm on 30th October 2019.

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Photo of Viscount Waverley Viscount Waverley Crossbench 5:09 pm, 30th October 2019

My Lords, our image externally has not been enhanced, with some bemusement over how we have reached this point. Other noble Lords have underlined what is needed: reaching out, being magnanimous and healing wounds with those of differing Brexit persuasion. Mending differences and closing divides should be the order of the day.

I rise briefly with one or two personal reflections on what has been a traumatic process that has certainly taken its toll. I commend the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, who is not in his place, together with the respective shadow Front-Benchers who collectively have advocated their positions with effectiveness and good humour.

The debate in the UK has been domestic in nature. However, the EU side has, understandably, also stuck to its core principles, and I suspect has, on occasion, accommodated the United Kingdom. Future decision makers might wish to reflect on such contributions, remembering that Brexit should not be a winner-takes-all circumstance. This election will give the electorate the opportunity to express their preferences, but this is where I register my personal regret that the political class has been unable to deliver on Brexit. I accept that the Government have had no choice but to call the election, but it would have been preferable to determine the real will of the electorate in isolation from unrelated grievances.

Finally, there is one point that I wish to belabour. Amid all the talk of extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year-olds and EU citizens, there has not been sufficient consideration of UK citizens living in the EU, who lose the right to vote in general elections after 15 years outside the UK. This group, among the most adversely affected by Brexit, will be anguished not to be able to vote in December, and that includes many thousands in Portugal, where I am resident, and elsewhere on the continent. That said, if I were to offer any suggestion to UK citizens living on the continent, it would be, “Go register with your local immigration authorities in order to spare yourself angst post Brexit”.