Tory minister questions whether aliens and farm animals voted for Brexit

PUBLISHED: 09:11 24 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:12 24 July 2018

Tory minister Lord Callanan questions whether the truth is out there

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A Tory minister has weirdly mocked calls for a People's Vote on any Brexit deal by questioning if aliens or farm animals voted to leave the EU.

Closing a House of Lords debate, Brexit minister Lord Callanan ridiculed the idea of a People's Vote, asking "who voted in the first referendum, perhaps aliens or farm animals?".

It followed calls in the debate from Tory former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine and Labour ex-cabinet minister Lord Mandelson for a further referendum on Brexit.

Lord Heseltine branded Brexit a "disaster" and warned the Chequers document outlining the government's plans for future relations with the EU was "dead and won't work".

Former diplomat and Article 50 author Lord Kerr of Kinlochard also claimed crashing out of the EU without a deal would be "suicidal" for the UK as well as being harmful to the remaining 27 member states.

The independent crossbencher argued it would be "irresponsible" not to consider pushing back the UK's departure date from the EU.

Closing the debate, Brexit minister Lord Callanan said: "We are back on to the subject of a second referendum or, as it has now been renamed, a 'people's vote' - which leads me to wonder who voted in the first referendum, perhaps aliens or farm animals?"

Lord Callanan, speaking at 11.36pm during a major debate ahead of the summer recess on the government's preparations for leaving the EU, went on: "The government's position remains unchanged, you will be unsurprised to hear, from the time of the first referendum.

"It is essential for our democracy that we respect the result of the referendum."

Earlier, Lord Heseltine told peers: "There is a growing argument for another referendum."

Lord Heseltine said Brexiteers had made a "resounding nonsense" of Brexit, insisting: "There is no plan. There is no detail. There is no reality behind the rhetoric and the emotion."

It was no surprise that "growing in volume and articulation is the demand: let the people have another chance, let them say when they have seen the facts".

Lord Heseltine blamed stagnating living standards and concern about immigration for the vote to leave but said the way of dealing with this was not to make the country poorer.

"The right solution is to ask the second question about Brexit and see if there is a way to re-visit the fundamentals," he told the Lords.

Lord Mandelson, who served as an EU commissioner for four years, said: "A fresh people's vote is the only way to give democratic legitimacy to the profound choice that now has to be made.

"To leave on such sub-optimal terms as we are going to be presented with or remaining in the European Union."

Lord Callanan, previously best known for campaigning against the Angel of the North, also delivered an upbeat assessment of the government's progress, saying negotiations continued "at pace" and the latest detailed and credible proposals had given "impetus" to the talks.

But Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, for Labour, mocked the government's stance, suggesting scornfully: "It's all going so well."

Lady Hayter said the white paper was unacceptable to the EU, two Cabinet ministers who quit and much of industry, the City and business.

She said it was unacceptable to the opposition because it was "grounded on a flawed facilitated customs arrangement" and inadequate plans for services.

Lady Hayter said the prime minister was "stranded in a mire of her own making" and must now face down the impossible demands of the Brexiteers and step towards the majority opinion in Parliament, embracing a customs union and a single market deal.

Lord Newby, Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords, said a further referendum would "lance the boil" stemming from continuing divisions over Brexit.

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