Brexit's back in the Lords: An update
Parliament returned this week, and a big new Brexit issue is arising. Once the Government accepts, as it is clearly beginning to, that its oxymoronic aim of a ‘good Brexit deal’ is unattainable and it settles for some kind of ‘blind Brexit’ deal, it is hugely in the Government’s interest to rush its miserable deal through Parliament before it can be become clear just how bad it is. This would be a historic affront to British democracy.
On Thursday I raised this matter in the House of Lords and sought assurances from Lord Duncan that it would not seek to rush parliament’s consideration of the EU withdrawal deal in order to limit consultation and debate. Lord Duncan told me that parliament would not “bounced or hustled” into voting on the withdrawal agreement. However, when I invited him to set a minimum period of parliamentary consideration, he declined to do so and would not even rule out that this period would be less than two weeks! (You can read the full exchange here)
It has long been the norm for there to be twelve week consultations on new Government policies and local councils have eight weeks to consider even the most straightforward planning applications. It would be outrageous for parliament to have less time to consider the most important decisions it will take in this generation.
I will be writing to the Prime Minister personally to ask for a guarantee that there will be at least a month between the publication of any Brexit deal and the parliamentary votes on it. In the 1930s, when Parliament failed to properly scrutinize some of the worst Government decisions in our history, Winston Churchill criticized it for becoming “an organised voting machine,” full of “tame, docile, subservient Members.” Our Government’s Brexit deal will decide the future of Britain and Europe, and Parliament cannot allow itself to be cowed by the Government in this way again.
I also spoke in the House of Lords on the urgent need to prevent a harder border in Ireland (full speech here) and the immense damage that Brexit will do to the Arts (full speech here). I concluded by noting one final, ironic twist. The anthem of Europe, much hated by Brexiters, is the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s ninth symphony. That symphony was commissioned in 1822 by the Royal Philharmonic Society of London.
In my New European column this week I argue that Remain now feels like a movement not just an opinion or even a belief and that it is there in every pub, workplace, student bar and almost every dinner table – read it here.
The groundswell of support for a People’s Vote has continued to rise across the country, particularly among the young. From Lambeth Council to the Oxford University Student Union, more and more places are passing motions in support of a People’s Vote.
I addressed Nottingham University students on Monday with Anna Soubry MP in a completely packed out auditorium, and over 200 UCL students on Tuesday along with Caroline Lucas MP and Richard Newby. Almost all of them supported a People’s Vote and will be on the 20th October People’s Vote March. This will be the most important protest of our generation, so make sure that you and all your friends and family are attending. More information on the People’s Vote March can be found here.