Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords will not give up on Europe
The Commons have washed their hands of the Brexit Bill. They have failed to amend the Bill, they have failed to give the people of the UK a say on the future deal, they have failed to protect the rights of EU citizens. The Lords, as they have done for centuries, will scrutinise this legislation in detail and propose amendments. This Bill, one of the most defining of a generation, can expect exactly the same treatment as any other.
In the Commons we have seen the majority of her Majesty’s Official Opposition rubber stamp the Bill, giving the go ahead for a hard Brexit which was never on the ballot paper. We are seeking changes to the legislation to improve the short Bill put in front of us.
The deal which this Government reaches with the EU will redefine Britain’s position in the World. It will redefine our politics for a generation, it will shape our future in a way not seen since World War Two. A refusal to put this final deal to the British people is a denial of democracy.
As Tim Farron said in the Commons – no one in this government, no one in this House, no one in this country has any idea what deal the Prime Minister will negotiate with the EU – it is completely unknown. So how then can anyone pretend that this undiscussed, unwritten, unnegotiated deal in any way at this stage has the backing of the British people?
Liberal Democrats are very clear on our position on this Bill. If the people do not get a say on the final deal that Theresa May brings back it won’t get our support. This is the biggest political shake up in sixty years. If the Government gets its way, the deal we get as part of this process won’t be anything that anyone voted for, it will be a back-room deal signed off in secret. This will be an injustice to the 48% of people who didn’t vote for Brexit. It will also be an injustice to those of the 52% who did not vote to be ripped out of the Single Market. Whatever comes out of Theresa May’s closed door deal it won’t have been agreed by the British public. Without a referendum on the terms, they will just have to accept it.
There are other major injustices which have been waived through without any significant fight in the Commons. Not least for the millions of people in the UK who are EU citizens and currently face uncertain futures as Theresa May holds them as bargaining chips in her negotiations. The Liberal Democrats have launched a new initiative, our campaign ‘Right to Stay’ seeks to unite those people who since June 23rd have felt alone, distanced from the country which before had been their home.
The Liberal Democrats are standing up to the Government to fight for clarity over the future of millions of people who currently call the UK their home.
Within the Second Chamber sit thousands of years of collective political experience and public service, including with the EU. There are those like myself who campaigned as a young man to join the European Community, and for whom Europe has been the central theme of our political lives. We will not give up on it now.
Dick Newby is Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords