Remainers in the House of Commons have been ‘silenced’ claims former Lib Dem leader

Boris Johnson at the latest PMQs in the House of Commons with Priti Patel, Matt Hancock and Michael

Boris Johnson at the latest PMQs in the House of Commons with Priti Patel, Matt Hancock and Michael Gove Photograph: Parliament TV. - Credit: Archant

Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Campbell has said that Remainers have been silenced in the Commons over fears about the end of the Brexit transition period.

Lord Campbell said the refusal by ghe Government to extend the Brexit transition period is 'irresponsible' as it left open the threat of a 'catastrophic' no deal.

Speaking during a virtual House of Lords debate, Lord Campbell said that the general election had left those on the pro-EU side unable to speak out.

He said: 'The unwillingness of the government, indeed its refusal, to countenance any extension beyond December 31 is irresponsible.

'Not least because it leaves open the possible catastrophic outcome of no deal whatsoever.

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Lord Campbell added: 'After the virus crisis we shall needs friends and influence in Europe.

'But most of all now we need the best possible trade deal that can be achieved.'

He argued it 'would be no use looking to' Donald Trump, given with an upcoming election the US president would be 'America first... second and third as well'.

Lord Campbell said: 'The prime minister has a long and undistinguished record of changing his mind for his own interest, he should change his mind on this occasion for the public interest.'

Labour peer Lord Wood of Anfield, a former adviser to Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, said: 'We are in the midst of a global crisis of proportions unimaginable just a few weeks ago.

'With such chasms between the parties on the future relationship discussions, so much attention focused rightly elsewhere and so much catastrophic disruption of our lives already baked into the next 12 months, how can it be anything other than reckless to proceed on the existing timescale for concluding a transition deal.'

Independent crossbencher Lord Kerr of Kinlochard warned that Britain was 'increasingly seen as irresponsible and untrustworthy' by EU partners.

The government had encouraged the perception that it would happy to have a no-deal outcome and that it aimed to conceal the 'self-harm' that would occur under the cover of a 'virus-led recession'.

Lord Kerr, who was author of the Article 50 mechanism by which the UK left the EU, said this was 'sad and shaming'.

Responding to the debate, Cabinet Office minister Lord True said: 'The view of the government is that there is ample time to strike a deal, based on fair trade and friendly co-operation.

'No one should be casting doubt on it, we should be getting on with it.

'Of course Covid exists. A great tragedy and a great crisis. But the government has the bandwidth and has the capacity to conduct negotiations within Europe and to deal with the Covid crisis.

'The government's view remains that extending the transition would simply prolong the negotiations, prolong business uncertainty and delay the moment of control of our borders.

'Extending the transition... would mean we would have to make further payments into the EU budget. It would also keep us bound by EU legislation at a point when we need legislative and economic flexibility to manage the UK response to the Covid pandemic.

'Some would characterise that as an ideological statement, I would characterise it as a statement of a government that is intent on doing what it had been asked to do by the British people.

'And to do so in an amicable way to reach agreement with the people who will always remain our European friends.'

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