A fantastic speech from the House of Lords back on 14th January which I find very helpful in the light of the current confusion in the House of Commons. It is clear we now need a peoples vote as expressed by Betty Boothroyd six weeks ago:
My Lords, I cherish my European citizenship and regret its loss when or if—dare I say it?—Brexit becomes law. I identified myself as a British patriot and a European when I went to Berlin and other war-torn cities on the continent with little more than £5 in my pocket at the age of 17. I stayed with social democrat families who welcomed me into their homes. Europe is part of my DNA; it transcends treaties and bureaucracy…..I am not a devotee of referenda. I rather enjoy general elections, but general elections are not single-issue events—they cover a host of issues. A general election is not the way to settle the European question. After two years, we are now more aware of the minuses and pluses and the people must determine this single issue. I urge Back-Benchers in the Commons to reject the pretences of Ministers who say—I quote Dr Fox, the International Trade Secretary—that a second referendum would put us in,
“unprecedented territory with unknown consequences”.
My Lords, we have been wandering in the wilderness since Mrs May lost her majority in the election. I wonder how high Dr Fox was flying when he dreamed that one up. In my book, if a democracy cannot be allowed to change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.
When the Minister winds up, will he say what the Government are afraid of in refusing a people’s vote? In answering that question, will he please explain to young people who have reached adulthood why they do not have the right to be heard on an issue that our generation has manifestly bodged? Brexit will shape these youngsters’ futures for the next 50 years—not ours. I have no children or grandchildren; my quality of life will not be affected. I am all right, Jack. But what about the Jacks and Jills out there? Are they to be stripped of their rights on the whim of those who peddled rubbish in the referendum and are afraid to be challenged in another?
I was a government Whip when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister. He said that anyone who claimed that membership of the European Community was a black and white issue was either a charlatan or a simpleton. I leave your Lordships to adjudicate on that one. Which brings me to Mr Boris Johnson: his campaign bus did not proclaim, “Say yes to no deal”. We were promised an easy ride with a cash bonus thrown in. The question on the ballot paper did not ask us to choose between a hard or soft Brexit, a Canadian or a Norway-plus deal, or a deal that would separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.….In yesterday’s Sunday Express, Mrs May said:
“Some of you put your trust in the political process for the first time in decades. We cannot—and must not—let you down”.
But voters were let down—all of them. Both sides failed to focus on the issues that mattered most to them. Look at the Electoral Commission report. It said that many voters were unclear about the consequences of victory for either side and did not know the answers to questions they expected to be at the heart of the campaign. Both the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition should heed that report and listen to the voice of a young generation, who have a right to be part of the decisions affecting their future.