28 Viscount Hailsham debates involving the Department for Exiting the European Union

Wed 15th Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords
Fri 6th Sep 2019
European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 8th Apr 2019
European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 25th Mar 2019
Tue 8th May 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords
Wednesday 15th January 2020

(4 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 16-III Third marshalled list for Committee - (15 Jan 2020)
Lord Newby Portrait Lord Newby
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No, because it does not require the period to be extended at all. If the Prime Minister is correct and we pass this amendment, there is absolutely no let or hindrance to the Tory party manifesto being adhered to. Deleting this clause will, I fear, make the Prime Minister’s life easier. He should welcome it.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, I associate myself with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, and indeed with the remarks I suspect will be made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter. I will not go into the detail of the matter because it has been very eloquently argued by the noble Lord, Lord Newby. I will confine myself to three general points.

The first is that the position that the Government are now taking in the Bill is wholly inconsistent with the position that we took before the general election. We are entitled to know why, as a matter of substance rather than political guile, the Government are moving from a position previously expressed to that now expressed in the Bill.

Secondly, following a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, I say that this prohibition is bogus because we all know full well that a Government with a majority of 80 in the House of Commons can, if they so choose, reverse a provision in a Bill—as they did, for example, on the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. If that is true, then anybody who says that this will help the Government in their negotiations with the European Union is talking nonsense, because the European Union interlocutors will know as well as we do that this provision can simply be set aside.

I come to my final point. I have been involved in negotiations, both as a politician and as a lawyer, for 40 years, and I believe in the importance of flexibility. In the last debate, a number of noble Lords talked about the importance of giving the Government flexibility and not tying hands. The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, was one; the noble Lord, Lord Butler, was another; and a third was my noble friend Lord Callanan, who made the point that events can overturn outcomes and things can happen which are surprising and destroy timelines. That is going to happen if we impose an arbitrary timetable. What could well happen—indeed, what is likely to happen—is that the Government come back with either weasel words and an amendment of the statutory time; or we get a partial and incomplete agreement, or an unsatisfactory agreement, or no agreement at all. If we had more time, the situation could be perfected.

This is a profoundly unwise provision in the Bill and we would do well without it.

Lord Howarth of Newport Portrait Lord Howarth of Newport
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My Lords, I will not repeat the arguments that I put to the House at Second Reading in support of Clause 33 and the ruling out of an extension of negotiations beyond the end of this year, but will just make two points now. I was surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Newby, who, as I recall, once held the economic brief for his party, appeared not to recognise the profound damage to our economy that the prolongation of the Brexit process has already caused. It has now been three and a half years, during which it has been very difficult for rational participants in our economy to make investment decisions or decisions of other kinds. Our economy is now in a fragile condition, and it cannot be in our national economic interests to perpetuate this process any further than is absolutely necessary. For that reason, it is highly desirable that investors should be able to look forward with some confidence to the conclusion of the negotiations about the future relationship by the end of this year.

That brings me to my second point. Again, I was puzzled as to why the noble Lord, Lord Newby, considers that a bare-bones agreement would cover only tariffs and quotas. I cannot see why the essential elements of all the necessary agreements cannot be negotiated between now and the end of the year. Personally, I would be quite relaxed if some technical fine-tuning were still needed subsequent to 31 December, and indeed I accept that the multiple process of ratification across the European Union will take some time. If we can achieve the certainty provided by a resolution of the key issues by the end of the year, that can only be helpful, 2and if the Government reaffirm their determination on that point in the form of Clause 33, that will also be helpful.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Newby, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, my noble friend Lord Hailsham and others who have contributed to this debate. I think the key point was made by noble friend Lord Bridges: the manifesto on which my party won the election that delivered a substantial majority for this Government was absolutely explicit in ruling out any extension to the implementation period. The general election has clearly shown that the public support that vision. I say gently to the noble Lord, Lord Newby, that his party put forward an alternative vision that was comprehensively rejected by the public. This clause implements that provision. It binds the Government to this commitment by enshrining in statute that Ministers may not agree to the extension of the implementation period beyond 2020.

I reassure noble Lords that in the withdrawal agreement both sides—we and the EU—have committed to using their “best endeavours” to negotiate a future partnership. Moreover, both the EU and the UK committed to agreeing a deal by the end of 2020 in the political declaration. It is worth quoting from paragraph 135, which says that,

“it is the clear intent of both Parties to develop in good faith agreements giving effect to this relationship and to begin the formal process of negotiations as soon as possible after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union, such that they can come into force by the end of 2020.”

This clause provides both parties absolute clarity on the timetable for negotiations. This will help ensure that our negotiations can progress at pace and that we have our future relationship agreed by December 2020. It is in the interests of the UK and the EU to agree a deal that supports the flow of goods, the provision of services and business being done. That is what we are going to do.

In sum, this clause delivers on our manifesto commitment to the British public not to extend the implementation period beyond 2020.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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Would my noble friend tell the House whether he thinks there are any negotiating advantages that flow from this clause?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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It definitely concentrates the minds of both parties. As I said, it has been explicitly agreed in both the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration, as I have quoted, by us and the European Union.

It will ensure that we can move on with negotiating a future relationship with absolute clarity on the timetable. For this reason, the clause must stand part of the Bill. With regard to the questions of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, about the EEA and the Scottish Law Society, I will write to her.

European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Lord True Portrait Lord True
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The noble Lord has just voted for an amendment that we have been told has no statutory effect, so now he can vote against one that he says has no statutory effect. He can have it both ways.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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But surely what it means is that if there is no general election in 2019, the Bill will never come into effect.

Lord True Portrait Lord True
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I would cheerfully welcome that outcome, my Lords.

Brexit: Appointment of Joint Committee

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Wednesday 3rd July 2019

(5 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, my contribution to this debate will be brief, partly because I have already expressed my views on many occasions, and in part because, if I speak at any length, my anger, shame and distress at what my party is doing to this country and to itself will become too apparent. All I can say in Mr Johnson’s favour is that his policies are somewhat less destructive than those advocated by Mr Corbyn and his immediate circle. I recognise that that is a lukewarm endorsement.

I support the Motion. Indeed, I cannot see any rational reason for opposing it, certainly not the procedural reasons that I suspect the Minister will advance, nor even the sophisticated arguments of my noble friend Lord Bridges, with whom I normally agree, or the less sophisticated arguments advanced by my noble friend Lord Robathan. No-deal Brexit is not yet government policy, so the Motion reflects—indeed, underpins—government strategy. The Motion provides for a Joint Committee of both Houses, long called for by my neighbour and noble friend Lord Cormack. It implies the taking and consideration of external and independent evidence, doubtless to address the very questions identified by the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Paddick. That is highly desirable.

A report from such a source would ensure that, at a critical moment—one certain to arise—the public would be better informed about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit, which is precisely what my noble friend Lord Bridges called for, and I wholly agree. Surely, the existence of a better-informed public is a necessary condition to taking back control. Incidentally, this Joint Committee could examine what I fear is the somewhat optimistic analysis of my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford. I normally agree with him, but I should like to know what external experts have to say about it.

To move away from the somewhat narrow terms of the Motion, I conclude with the following observations. I regard the whole policy of Brexit as an extraordinary act of national self-harm—political, economic, cultural and diplomatic—and one that will threaten the very unity of the United Kingdom, so eloquently spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Reid. It is entirely unsupported by plausible assumptions or credible evidence. It is being driven by obsessions of a largely absurd and harmful kind.

I do not accept that the referendum of 2016 provides any democratic authority for crashing out without a deal. In 2016, the electorate was assured that Brexit would be a smooth, orderly process providing for seamless trade. That is not what will happen if a no-deal Brexit occurs. As the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, made wholly plain in a masterly analysis, now that the relevant facts are so much clearer, there would be nothing undemocratic about a further referendum. Indeed, such a referendum is now probably a necessary precondition to the revocation of Article 50, which is what I think we should now do. There is evidence from the polls of a shift in public opinion. Moreover, after three years, a new and large cohort of young voters is now enfranchised, and it is surely right that their views on their future should be taken into account.

Finally, any suggestion that Parliament should be prorogued to prevent elected Members of Parliament challenging or overruling the decisions of Ministers would be a constitutional outrage. Such a policy must be resisted by every possible proper means, including, if necessary, a Motion of no confidence. While to support such a Motion would certainly risk possible disaster, it might avert certain disaster. Those who bring forward or participate in a policy of prorogation for the purpose identified will bring lasting shame on themselves and the party to which they belong. It would almost certainly lead to their political destruction and it would subvert the basic principles on which parliamentary government rests. I am going to vote for the Motion.

European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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If the noble and learned Lord’s Amendment 5 is carried and Amendment 7 is carried as well, is it not possible for the Prime Minister to agree a date which is never subject to parliamentary ratification?

Lord Goldsmith Portrait Lord Goldsmith
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So far as domestic law is concerned, in any event there will need to be a statutory instrument to change the exit day. I accept that in relation to domestic law, and we have had the debate about international law. A Motion will be put to the other place, which will have a full opportunity to express its views about the date, and in that way it is the subject of careful consideration. We accept that the Prime Minister needs the flexibility to be able to agree what is proposed by the European Council. The mood music we hear, if we read what is going on in the press, seems to be much more that we are likely to find that there is some meeting of minds—that there is some accommodation from the European Council—and I am less concerned about that. I am concerned about the risk of legal uncertainty, which I was just explaining.

Part of it is that we may find it difficult to be sure whether the condition in subsection (6) has been satisfied. It requires that the European Council has proposed an extension, but that may not be the way it works because in discussion and negotiation it may be questionable whether the proposal has come from the European Council or from the Prime Minister herself in the course of negotiations. Secondly, if the condition is triggered, under subsection (7) the Prime Minister must move a Motion in the House of Commons in the form set out in subsection (2) stating that that House agrees to the Prime Minister seeking an extension. How is this going to work in circumstances where as a result of a negotiation the Prime Minister has in effect reached an agreement with the European Council about what the extension should be? How does she then receive an instruction to agree a date that has already been agreed? It creates those difficulties of legal certainty.

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Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick
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My Lords, I can sense the mood of the House, and I am grateful to all noble Lords, particularly the Chief Whip.

The noble and learned Lord has already mentioned Amendment 7, which goes with Amendment 5. It addresses a practical concern that may arise at the European Council meeting on Wednesday night. The problem is that Clause 1 envisages that, if the Prime Minister is mandated by the House of Commons to seek an extension to a specified date, and the European Council then makes a counteroffer of a different date, the Prime Minister would have no power under Clause 1 to agree to that counteroffer. She would have to say to our European partners that she is required to return to the House of Commons on Thursday to seek its approval. She would have to say that notwithstanding the fact that the European Council is not going to remain in session—they are all going to go home. There is therefore a risk that, contrary to the aims of the promoters of this Bill, the restrictions on the Prime Minister’s powers contained in this Bill may cause a no-deal exit on Friday at 11pm. Therefore, Amendment 7 makes it clear that nothing in this Bill prevents the Prime Minister seeking or agreeing on Wednesday night in Brussels an extension of the Article 50 period, provided it is not to a date earlier than 22 May.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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I entirely understand the point about the Prime Minister agreeing to a proposal coming from the European Union. I am a little less certain about the desirability of enabling her to seek a date without prior parliamentary approval.

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Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean
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Will the noble Baroness send a copy of her excellent contribution just now to the Minister for Children, who appeared on Radio 4 on Saturday morning and told an astonished nation that it was now illegal for us to leave without a deal?

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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My Lords, I will make a brief intervention in the hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, will respond to it. I entirely understand that in negotiations—the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, described the situation in which the Prime Minister and the EU are negotiating—there has to be give and take. What disturbs me is this: the Prime Minister might decide in advance to move outside the dates previously agreed by Parliament and go with an entirely fresh date into a negotiation. That is different in kind from negotiating when they sat down to discussion. It would be a deliberate attempt to go outside what Parliament has previously agreed to. It seems to me that Amendment 7 would enable her to do that, and I am profoundly uneasy about that prospect.

Lord Goldsmith Portrait Lord Goldsmith
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My Lords, I will respond on my Amendment 5, which is the one that has been moved. A couple of points need to be emphasised.

As has been discussed already, we are in unusual circumstances, and they demand some unusual responses. This Bill does not take away or give back the entirety of the royal prerogative. It says—this is why I made an intervention earlier—that it is for the other place, on a Motion put forward by the Prime Minister, to say what date she should seek. It may be that the European Council will accept that date, in which case it is done so far as the negotiations are concerned. It may come back with a different date, and the questions we have been considering are for those circumstances. Does she have to seek approval during the next two to three days before she can respond to it, or is she able to respond by agreeing to it or by putting forward a slightly different proposal?

There are two different amendments—my amendment would remove the fetters requiring her to come back, and that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, would enable her to reach an agreement without having had that prior approval. It seems to me that a balance is being struck between royal prerogative and necessary control by Parliament. It is absolutely the case—as the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, said—that of course the royal prerogative can be adjusted and amended by what Parliament says. On this occasion, the other place has said: “We believe that we should tell the Prime Minister what date she should seek. What happens after that will depend upon the circumstances but, whatever it is, it has to be done in this time”.

I invite the House to agree Amendment 5 and then we can move on to the other amendments.

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Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean
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My Lords, uncharacteristically, I think the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, made a slight slip when he said that the Prime Minister would come back with a deal. She will not be coming back with a deal; she will be coming back with a date. The committee report states:

“The date of the UK’s exit from the EU remains a matter of the greatest political and legal significance. It is right that the matter be debated in Parliament before the current date of 12 April is changed in our domestic law”.


When the Government changed the date from 29 March to 12 April, they did so by statutory instrument placed before both Houses, and we were able to discuss and debate that matter. What is proposed, as the 51st report of the committee makes clear, is to remove that right from both Houses to approve a change.

I must say that in introducing the debate the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, was very brief in his description. The outside world may not realise what is proposed here, which is entirely to cut the House of Lords out of approving the date, which the report rightly says is of the greatest political significance. Judging from the amount of grief I had at the weekend from people who are very disillusioned by the performance of Parliament on this matter, it is something that concerns many millions of our fellow citizens. I am therefore very surprised that this should be treated as just a matter of convenience.

The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which is held in the highest regard and afforded the highest respect, made clear recommendations. The point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is important: if this is to be done through a negative resolution, we will be invited after the event to consider whether we agreed with it, thus creating uncertainty. Again, we had the same discussion on Thursday. This is not about what the House thinks on whether we should leave the European Union; it is about whether our procedures and processes should be respected. The idea that it might be inconvenient or difficult to meet the timetable, and that we should therefore ignore our processes, is not good.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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Normally, my noble friend and I disagree on these matters but I am rather inclined to agree with him on this one.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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In the penultimate bullet point, it is clear that if the negative procedure is adopted and a Motion against the date is successful, the exit date will be invalidated and we will have to start again.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean
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I am grateful for my noble friend’s intervention. I am most obliged to him as a lawyer for backing up my case—and doing so for free. We should treat the amendment very seriously. I look forward to hearing what my noble friend the Minister has to say. We have not heard a squeak from the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, who is apparently the midwife responsible for the Bill.

Brexit

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Monday 25th March 2019

(5 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Newby Portrait Lord Newby (LD)
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My Lords, this is now the 13th opportunity that we have had to debate the Government’s withdrawal agreement. I am sure that all Members of your Lordships’ House hope, like me, that it will be the last.

Since we had our previous debate on the subject, some things at least have changed. The first is that the EU has agreed to an extension of Article 50, which will be widely supported across the House. The way in which this happened, though, is a telling foretaste of how life would be were we to leave the EU. The Prime Minister was allowed into the Council to petition other member states and was subject to lengthy and sceptical questioning. Then, like a prisoner in the dock, she was led from the room to a windowless cell, where she was kept until the verdict on her proposals had been reached. A modest meal was brought in. After a number of hours, the verdict was read out to her and she was allowed to leave. This is the reality of “taking back control”; this is what it would be like, week in, week out, were we ever to leave the EU.

Before leaving for Brussels, the Prime Minister had made her petulant and ill-judged address to the nation. Many in the Commons were angered by her attack on them. What really rankled with me was the statement:

“I am on your side”—


by which she meant the side of the people. But this weekend has demonstrated that she is not on the side of the people.

Noble Lords on the Government Front Bench will no doubt argue that a million people from across the UK on the streets of London, and 5.5 million people signing a petition, are only a fraction of the people. They are technically right. But how many people could the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, summon on to streets in support of the Government’s deal? How many people could the extreme Brexiteers summon up in support of crashing out? We know that Nigel Farage can summon up 200 in a pub car park—hardly the will of the people. We also know that every poll shows a large majority in favour of a people’s vote, and a large majority of them now want to remain rather than supporting either the Government’s deal or leaving without a deal. So when the Prime Minister says that she is on the people’s side, she is, as with so many other things, completely at odds with reality.

Until today, however improbable this may seem, the Prime Minister seemed to be a disciple of Samuel Beckett. When it came to her deal, she was following his injunction:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better”.


Today’s Statement signals the end of that strategy, and the end of any attempt by the Government to stay in charge of the Brexit process.

The Prime Minister says that she is no longer willing to fail better, and will not bring forward her deal again until it succeeds. If—as she tacitly accepts—this is unlikely ever to happen, she has said that she will provide government time for other options to be considered. But what is unclear is when she will conclude that her deal is dead. Will it be this week? Will it be next week? Will it perhaps be 11 April? Perhaps the Minister will tell us.

It is therefore hardly surprising that Members of another place will vote on an amendment later today that would give them early votes on other options. The Government say that if this amendment succeeds it will upset the balance between the Government and the Commons. But surely her proposal does the same. The Prime Minister accepts that it is for the House of Commons, not the Government, to put forward options for consideration and to determine the procedure by which it wishes to do so. The only difference between the Government’s position and that of Sir Oliver Letwin is one of timing, not substance. The truth is that the Government have thrown up their hands in despair and effectively said to the Commons, “Over to you”. It is the most humiliating abrogation of leadership and government in our lifetimes—but it is long overdue.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, referred to the phrase in the Prime Minister’s Statement that,

“I cannot commit the Government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by this House”.

In response to a question from the right honourable gentleman the leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister—if I heard her correctly—said that the Government would not feel obliged to follow any decision of the House of Commons that would cut across the commitments made in the Conservative Party manifesto. This seemed to me an extraordinary, dangerous and wholly unacceptable statement, and it is quite possible that I misheard it.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Perhaps he also heard the phrase in the Statement:

“Unless this House agrees to it, no deal will not happen”.


Does he share my view that that means the Prime Minister is saying that, in the absence of an affirmative decision by the Commons, no deal is now impossible?

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Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kerr. There are very few in your Lordships’ House who have greater experience in these matters than the noble Lord. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, is one other, if I may say so. I say to my noble friends that I associate myself very strongly with what the noble Lord said. I say, too, that I hope the Government have heeded his advice. In anticipation, given that the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, is to follow after my few remarks, I will say that it is not insignificant that he and I, who have been in the Chamber on opposite sides for over 30 years, on this matter happen to agree. On this issue there is tremendous cross-party consensus.

The decision of last week’s European Council obliges Parliament and the country to make a decisive decision, and we must do so. We have three choices: to approve the Prime Minister’s deal; to leave without a deal; or to seek a lengthy extension, during which the country and Parliament can reconsider their options. Without hesitation, I support the latter option. I am not a Europhile and never have been, but believe strongly and on pragmatic grounds that staying in the European Union offers by far the best future for the United Kingdom, Europe and the wider world. I believe that Brexit defies both reason and all credible evidence.

Contrary to the view expressed by my noble friend Lord Bridges of Headley, with whom I almost always agree—he is a very old friend—I do not think the 2016 referendum is an authority for leaving the European Union, whatever the outcome of the negotiations. I believe it was an instruction to the Government to negotiate the best terms that could be achieved, leaving over the issue of who decides whether the terms are acceptable. In my view, that final decision is one to be made by Parliament, and perhaps by the country in a further referendum. I agree with the view oft expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, and others that there can be no objection in principle to holding a further referendum, although personally I would prefer it to be held on the ultimate agreement rather than on Mrs May’s deal, which, by its nature, is interim and transitional.

As regards participating in the coming European elections, I acknowledge that there are practical difficulties to be confronted, but I do not believe that it is respectable to argue that participation in a democratic process is offensive in principle. Indeed, I can see great advantages in having a vigorous election debate and seeing the United Kingdom represented—I hope sensibly—in the European Parliament in what I also hope will be for an extended period. I support participation in those elections to secure a lengthy extension.

I turn directly to the choices that now have to be made. In my view, to crash out of the European Union without any deal would be a national calamity. I do not believe that there is or ever was a national desire for such an outcome. Last Saturday’s march and the petition now signed by over 5 million people speak to this. Moreover, no deal was decisively rejected in the House of Commons by 413 votes to 202. For government or parliamentarians to disregard such a vote would be to display a contempt for Parliament of the grossest kind. I hope I can gain some reassurance from today’s Statement, where I see that the Prime Minister said in the House of Commons:

“Unless this House agrees to it, no deal will not happen”.


The proper interpretation of that is that, unless there is an affirmative vote in the House of Commons, no deal will not happen. It means nothing else, and I very much hope that when my noble friend Lord Callanan winds up this debate, he will confirm that interpretation.

As to Mrs May’s deal, I would support it only if nothing else were on offer. However, I do not accept Mrs May’s oft-repeated statement that her deal is the only deal available. That is simply not true. It is clear that the European Council has given us an opportunity to think again—to discard the red lines which the Prime Minister so unwisely drew. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that the House of Commons will support the Prime Minister’s deal. I therefore hope that the Commons will vote to secure a lengthy extension to the deadline. If—I hope, when—that occurs, Britain should reconsider whether it wishes to leave the European Union. It may be that, as a result of those discussions, modified terms of membership will become available. In any event, the red lines should be discarded. If they are discarded, a variety of alternatives will become available, and, if the Commons thinks it appropriate, a further referendum will become part of the deliberative process.

I doubt that Mrs May can or should preside over those discussions. As the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, implied and as the noble Lord, Lord Soley, said, whoever is the Prime Minister must be a person who commands respect in the House of Commons, across the political divide and in the country as a whole. He or she must also be credible in Europe and on the international stage. In the conduct of the talks, in the formulation of policy and in taking the consequential legislation through Parliament, the Prime Minister will have to seek support from all sides of the House.

Although such considerations might not definitively identify who should be the next Prime Minister, they most certainly will identify the unsuitable. Now is not the time and No. 10 is not the place for clowns or for those who indulge in fantasies. In the wake of their policies would come economic damage, international isolation and considerable humiliation. I hope that in the coming votes the House of Commons will take full advantage of the opportunity that has been afforded to it. Parliament and the country can and must think again.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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The statutory instrument has already been laid. It reflects the decision of the European Council, so both potential dates are included as options, depending on whether the meaningful vote is approved—not necessarily tomorrow but this week. That was the decision laid down by the Council and agreed to by the Prime Minister.

In response to the questions asked by my noble friend Lord Hailsham and the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, no deal remains the legal default at 11 pm on 12 April, if that is where we end up. The Prime Minister was simply stating that Parliament is likely to intervene to prevent no deal, if a deal has not been agreed by then. This is in line with her comments on 26 February, when she told the House of Commons:

“So the United Kingdom will only leave without a deal on 29 March if there is explicit consent in this House for that outcome”.—[Official Report, Commons, 26/2/19; col. 166.]

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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Is my noble friend saying that, in order to secure a no-deal Brexit, the House of Commons has to approve that affirmatively?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I do not want to go further than the comments of the Prime Minister which I have just quoted. This is in line with her comments on 26 February, when she said:

“So the United Kingdom will only leave without a deal on 29 March if there is explicit consent in this House for that outcome”.—[Official Report, Commons, 26/2/19; col. 166.]


I will reply to my noble friend Lord Balfe, who called for an indefinite extension to Article 50. I am afraid to tell him that that is not possible. Any extension has to have an end date. As he will know from European law, Article 50 is a mechanism for leaving the EU, and an indefinite extension is, of course, not leaving.

Many noble Lords spoke about revoking Article 50 and mentioned the online petition and the march that we saw at the weekend. I noticed that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, spoke approvingly of both, but carefully avoided committing her party and saying whether Labour is actually in favour of either of those options. Indeed, if she carries on sitting on the fence, she might end up with spelks in her posterior. There is no doubt that there are clear and strongly held views on both sides of the debate. That has been clear since the referendum, when the largest democratic exercise in our history took place, with 17.4 million people voting to leave—as noble Lords are no doubt tired of me saying.

My old sparring partner, the House’s resident heckler, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, and indeed the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, talked about the impressive march and petition. They were indeed impressive. Let me say, however, that we govern this country by the ballot box and by this Parliament and not by numbers on demonstrations, or indeed by internet polls. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, was very careful not to mention either—because, of course, he was a member of the Blair Government when we had a similar, and even bigger, demonstration against the Iraq war and by the Countryside Alliance—and we all know what happened as a result of those demonstrations.

The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, slightly bizarrely called on us to revoke Article 50 and then to hold a referendum. I agree with the point that the noble Lord, Lord Trevethin and Oaksey, made on this. It seems slightly strange. If we do that, what are we going to hold a referendum on? Is he seriously saying that we could revoke—in other words, tell the EU unconditionally that we are going to stay as members and then maybe, possibly, decide that we are going to leave again? I think that that was possibly one of the more ridiculous of his strange ideas.

The Government have long been clear that failing to deliver on that vote would, in our view, be a failure of our democracy. On this point I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Deech. In response to my noble friend Lord Hailsham, it remains a matter of firm policy that this Government will not be revoking Article 50 because to do so would contradict the result of the first people’s vote, which we are committed to respecting. This Government are committed to delivering on the result of that referendum and leaving in a smooth and orderly way.

I was particularly struck by the interesting and insightful speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham. She referred, for noble Lords who did not hear her, to her sadomasochistic tendencies. Now, before noble Lords get too excited, she was referring to a forthcoming book, which we will all read with great interest, on the history of European referenda, and how she thought referenda were a device for demagogues and dictators and were always a bad idea, but maybe we should have just one more of them, so bad are they. Of course, ignoring referendum results is a common feature of the European politics that she studies so closely.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, spoke about the European Parliament elections, a subject very familiar to the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, and of course myself. The Prime Minister has been clear that, should there be a further extension to Article 50 beyond 22 May, that would mean participation in the European elections. As she has said before, it is our firm belief that it would be wrong to ask the people of the United Kingdom, three years after voting to leave the EU, to then vote in the European elections.

Further Discussions with the European Union under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Wednesday 27th February 2019

(5 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, it is a very great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Campbell. Neither he nor I is a tribalist; we have in fact worked together over many years, often in agreement, starting with our joint opposition to the second Iraq war. We are entirely in agreement with the debates on Brexit. It is also a great pleasure to follow two of my neighbours—my noble friend Lord Cormack and my former honourable friend Lord Davies of Stamford. They and I represented Conservative constituencies for many years. We know that there is a serious distinction between the admirable views of the association and the views of the ordinary Conservative voter. They are not the same, and I very much fear that the members of the ERG do not understand that basic fact.

I have expressed my views on a number of occasions, though not recently in formal debate. Therefore, I will confine myself to making three substantive points. First, we should acknowledge that no deal that can be negotiated is better for the United Kingdom than staying in the European Union on existing terms. Because of the negotiating skills of successive Prime Ministers, Britain has achieved the substantial advantage of membership while securing the rebate and also opting out of many policies of which we disapproved. That is a hugely advantageous position. The Prime Minister should have the honesty and the courage to state what probably the majority of Parliament believes—that Brexit is a very serious error. It is a policy which, on its merits, should not be pursued.

I say this not as a Europhile. I am perhaps not as enthusiastic about the European Union as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell. All my instincts are in fact the other way. As a Minister in the Home Office, the DTI, the Foreign Office with my noble friend Lord Garel-Jones, and in agriculture, I attended many euro councils. From that experience, I can identify many defects within the European Union. I do not think that it respects democratic values; I do not believe in ever greater integration. Managing BSE was a profoundly disagreeable experience. However, I am firmly and absolutely convinced that our national interests are best served by remaining within the European Union. Should we leave on any of the terms that are conceivably negotiable, our economic, political, cultural and strategic interests will suffer grave and long-lasting damage—we will enter a period of progressive and relative decline.

When I was in the DTI, I was frequently involved in discussions on inward investment—for example, with the Japanese. In our discussions, we always emphasised that Britain was the gateway to Europe; if you close that gateway, or obstruct the passage, potential overseas investors will simply look elsewhere. In 1962, Dean Acheson said that Britain had lost an empire and had failed to find a role in the world. At that time he was right but, subsequently, we have developed an important role as a leading nation within the European Union—a role which has reinforced, not diminished, our influence on the world stage. We are about to throw all of that away.

I turn to the question of delay. Unless Brexit is delayed, we are due to leave on 29 March. Here, I may have a declarable interest. My family and I have long-standing plans to go abroad on 31 March—that may have been an extremely unwise decision. It is essential that the deadline be extended and it is clear that our European partners would welcome this. There are, of course, short-term reasons for seeking an extension. As the noble Lord, Lord Newby, rightly said, the legislative programme is not, and will not, be ready in time. The problems with the backstop have not been resolved—matters spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford. However, in arguing that we need more time, I am talking about a much longer extension than is generally suggested, particularly by the Prime Minister. I entirely agree with the view of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, on this point.

My reasons for asking for a very long extension relate to the holding of a further referendum. I think that it is increasingly obvious that a further referendum is probably the only acceptable way forward—I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Garel-Jones on this point—but one difficulty lies in determining the question to be put to the electorate. In determining that question, we in fact identify the proper way forward. Clearly, one question should be: should the United Kingdom remain in the European Union on existing terms? That is an essential question, but what about the other questions? I am very cautious about putting the option of leaving the European Union without a deal to the electorate—there is not likely to be a parliamentary majority for such a policy. To impose an obligation on Parliament for which there is no supportive majority is to invite a constitutional crisis of a devastating kind. The question that has to be determined is: what are the other questions? It has to be the negotiated deal, but here lies the problem: what deal?

The deal presently negotiated by the Prime Minister is an interim and transitional deal; it does not and cannot reflect the ultimate arrangements between the European Union and the United Kingdom. It is therefore a very unsatisfactory subject for a referendum. I also acknowledge the arguments of those who say, “Another referendum? How many more?” So if there is to be a further referendum, it should not be on the present and transitional deal but on the final deal, yet to be negotiated, and that may be many years distant.

If that proposition is accepted, much else falls into place. The deadline must be extended well beyond 29 March. Article 50 must be revoked—we are still in time to do that. Then, as full and remaining members of the European Union, we should embark on orderly negotiations to leave the European Union. Once those have crystallised into a concluded agreement, regulating the ultimate arrangements between ourselves and the European Union, that agreement could be put to the country in the further referendum—unless, of course, the electorate is prepared to leave the question to Parliament, which within our constitutional practices would be wholly proper.

I am conscious that what I have suggested will be very unpopular in some quarters. But none of the alternatives are attractive. We are facing the worst peacetime crisis for over 100 years—certainly since the failure of the Home Rule legislation, perhaps before. Now is the time to put what we deem to be the national interest before any party consideration. That is what our predecessors did in May 1940. The Prime Minister fell and a national Government was formed. If the Prime Minister is seen to put nation before party, she may fail, and she may fall. But she will have earned great respect, and history will then judge her generously.

Brexit: Economic Forecast

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Wednesday 28th November 2018

(5 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I am sorry if the noble Lord was disappointed with my Answer, but perhaps he has neglected the small matter of the EU withdrawal Act, which was passed by this Parliament—this House and the House of Commons—and legislated for our withdrawal from the European Union as a result of the referendum, which the Liberals also want conveniently to ignore. We are leaving the EU on 29 March next year. I hope that we will leave with this deal, but if we do not, we will leave with no deal.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, does my noble friend agree with the Treasury assessment that the United Kingdom’s economic interests would best be served by remaining in the European Union on existing terms?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I refer my noble friend to the Answer I just gave the noble Lord. We had a referendum on the subject and the country decided to leave the European Union. That referendum was authorised and legislated for by this Parliament, our notification of withdrawal was legislated for by this Parliament, and we have now ratified the withdrawal Act, which legislates for our withdrawal date of 29 March next year.

Brexit: Negotiations and No-deal Contingency Planning

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Tuesday 4th September 2018

(5 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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The noble Lord is correct that Article 50 sets out a mechanism by which the process can be extended, but we are very clear that we are not going to apply for it to be extended. We leave on 29 March and we believe that an agreement can be negotiated well before then. It will need to be done so that we can pass the appropriate legislation in the House of Commons and in this House.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is truly extraordinary that the Government are advising the stockpiling of medicines and other necessities not as a result of war or of some natural calamity but rather as a result of a self-imposed policy which may well lead to yet further direful consequences? Should the country not be made urgently aware of the folly of what we are about?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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The noble Viscount forgets that we had a referendum on the subject and the country as a whole decided that it wished to leave the European Union. We are implementing that decision. The technical notice to which he referred merely makes the point that we need to make sensible, pragmatic preparations in case there is no deal. We do not want or desire that outcome, but a responsible Government—he has been a member of such a Government in the past—have a duty to make clear what preparations may be necessary in the event of that unfortunate eventuality.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Monday 18th June 2018

(6 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Moved by
Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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Leave out “19C to 19L” and insert “19C to 19E, 19G to 19L and 19P”

19P: Before Clause 9, line 37, at end insert—
“(5A) A Minister of the Crown must make arrangements for—
(a) a motion for the House of Commons to approve the statement mentioned in subsection (4), to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of seven Commons sitting days beginning with the day on which the statement is made, and
(b) a motion for the House of Lords to take note of the statement to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of seven Lords sitting days beginning with the day on which the statement is made.
(5B) Subsection (5C) applies if the Prime Minister makes a statement before the end of 21 January 2019 that no agreement in principle can be reached in negotiations under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union on the substance of—
(a) the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, and
(b) the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom after withdrawal.
(5C) A Minister of the Crown must, within the period of 14 days beginning with the day on which the statement mentioned in subsection (5B) is made—
(a) make a statement setting out how Her Majesty’s Government proposes to proceed, and
(b) make arrangements for—
(i) a motion for the House of Commons to approve the statement mentioned in paragraph (a), to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of seven Commons sitting days beginning with the day on which the statement mentioned in paragraph (a) is made, and
(ii) a motion for the House of Lords to take note of the statement mentioned in paragraph (a) to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of seven Lords sitting days beginning with the day on which the statement mentioned in paragraph (a) is made.
(5D) A statement under subsection (5B) or (5C)(a) must be made in writing and be published in such manner as the Minister making it considers appropriate.
(5E) Subsection (5F) applies if, at the end of 21 January 2019, there is no agreement in principle in negotiations under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union on the substance of—
(a) the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, and
(b) the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom after withdrawal.
(5F) A Minister of the Crown must, within the period of five days beginning with the end of 21 January 2019—
(a) make a statement setting out how Her Majesty’s Government proposes to proceed, and
(b) make arrangements for—
(i) a motion for the House of Commons to approve the statement mentioned in paragraph (a), to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of five Commons sitting days beginning with the end of 21 January 2019, and
(ii) a motion for the House of Lords to take note of the statement mentioned in paragraph (a) to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of five Lords sitting days beginning with the end of 21 January 2019.
(5G) A statement under subsection (5F)(a) must be made in writing and be published in such manner as the Minister making it considers appropriate.
(5H) For the purposes of this section—
(a) a statement made under subsection (4), (5C)(a) or (5F)(a) may be combined with a statement made under another of those provisions,
(b) a motion falling within subsection (5A) (a), (5Q(b)(i) or (5F)(b)(i) may be combined into a single motion with another motion falling within another of those provisions, and
(c) a motion falling within subsection (5A)(b), (5C)(b)(ii) or (5F)(b)(ii) may be combined into a single motion with another motion falling within another of those provisions.”
Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, I shall formally move Motion F3, which is on the supplementary list. As your Lordships know, it is a manuscript amendment which I tabled this morning. For reasons of convenience, I shall refer to Motion F3 as “Grieve II”. We also have a Grieve I, but I shall come to that. I shall also comment on the Government’s Motion F, which is the Government’s amendment. As your Lordships have just heard, I do not move, and have not moved, Motion F1 which is on the Marshalled List and was tabled on Friday, and which I will refer to as Grieve I.

By way of brief explanation before I come to my substantive comments, I say that Grieve I, which is the Motion that I have not moved, was the amendment tabled by Mr Grieve in the House of Commons. It was before the House of Commons on 12 June: it was discussed but never voted on. Grieve II, the Motion to which I am now speaking and will formally move, reflects the agreement that Mr Grieve believed he had made with the Solicitor-General. Mr Grieve thought that Grieve II was agreed to, but it appears that senior Ministers objected and it has now been repudiated. By moving Grieve II—or Motion F3 on the supplementary list—I am asking your Lordships to make a decision which will enable the House of Commons to vote on what Mr Grieve believes was agreed with the Government. That is the purpose of my amendment.

On 30 April this year, this House passed by a very substantial majority what has been described as the “meaningful vote” amendment. On that occasion I explained at some length my reasons for advocating a truly meaningful vote. I am quite sure that I will be forgiven if I do not repeat myself. I would like, however, if I may, to explain why I am moving Grieve II, indicate briefly what the amendments provide, and say again briefly why I hope that your Lordships’ House will support Grieve II, the Motion I am moving.

The first question is: why am I moving Grieve II? On 12 June, the House of Commons considered the Bill as amended by this House. Mr David Davis, as he was perfectly entitled to do, put down an amendment that substantially altered your Lordships’ meaningful vote amendment. Mr Davis’s amendment was itself the subject of an amendment moved by Mr Dominic Grieve and that amendment is Grieve I, which I have not moved but which gave Members of Parliament the power to prevent the United Kingdom crashing out of the European Union and, in the event of such a risk arising, to instruct the Government on what to do next. I accept, and Mr Grieve accepts, that the words used in subsection (5C) of Grieve I are both directional and mandatory.

It seemed to everybody in the House of Commons that Grieve I was likely to carry, and in order to forestall this the Government, in the person of the Solicitor-General, offered negotiations. What he said, of course, appears in Hansard. Of Mr Grieve he said,

“I think that there is much merit in the approach that he urges the House to adopt in subsection (5A). I need more time to think about the other parts of the amendment … but by indicating my position on a key part of it, I am indicating that the Government are willing to engage positively ahead of the Lords stages”.

He went on to say of Mr Grieve’s comments:

“They will form a clear basis for a formal set of discussions that we can start at the earliest opportunity”.—[Official Report, Commons, 12/6/18; cols. 766-67.]


As a result of the Solicitor-General’s intervention, your Lordships’ meaningful vote amendment was defeated and Grieve I was never put to the vote.

Following the undertaking given by the Solicitor- General, negotiations were commenced. These negotiations included a meeting with the Prime Minister. It is reported by those present at that meeting that the Prime Minister herself gave a personal assurance to those present that their concerns about the risk of a no-deal Brexit would be addressed.

I have known Mr Grieve for very many years. He is a man of the utmost personal and professional integrity. I accept without reservation what he has said about those negotiations. I say in passing that the attacks on Mr Grieve in last week’s press, especially the Daily Mail, were disgraceful and the authors ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

As reported in the Times on 15 June, Mr Grieve said:

“We had very sensible negotiations and thought we had reached an agreement and then they phoned and said that they had to make the motion unamendable. For the life of me I can’t understand why … It is utterly bizarre”.


On 16 June the Times reported the following conversation: asked if he had been tricked by the Prime Minister, Mr Grieve replied that,

“when it came to the end, she wasn’t—for some reason—in a position to deliver”.

I was in direct contact with Mr Grieve throughout Tuesday. I can confirm from my own knowledge that until the afternoon of that day, he was confident that he could achieve a sensible accommodation. Grieve I, which I have not tabled, is the amendment that was before the House of Commons on 12 June. It would probably have passed but it was never voted on. But Grieve II sets out the agreement which Mr Grieve believes he made with the Solicitor-General, negotiating on behalf of the Government. If your Lordships approve Grieve II, the House of Commons will have an opportunity to consider and approve the agreement negotiated in good faith between the Solicitor-General and Mr Grieve.

Lord Robathan Portrait Lord Robathan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my noble friend. He is indeed a friend. I have always found him both highly intelligent and very entertaining. However, on a point of clarification, can he say whether it remains his position that he wishes at all costs to destroy Brexit?

Lord Robathan Portrait Lord Robathan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can he say whether he wishes to destroy Brexit—that is not a very parliamentary gesture, if I may say so to the noble Lord opposite—and that this amendment is in fact about sabotaging Brexit? That seems to be the case. On a second point of clarification, can he tell us what discussions he has had with the Opposition Front Bench on this amendment?

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
- Hansard - -

Yes, it is perfectly true that I have had negotiations and talks with the Opposition Front Bench, and with the Liberal Democrats and many Cross-Benchers. I make absolutely no apology for that. This is the high court of Parliament and we are not party hacks.

None Portrait Noble Lords
- Hansard -

Hear, hear!

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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My noble friend’s second question was whether I am seeking to frustrate Brexit. I do not believe in Brexit, that is perfectly true. I think it is a national calamity. But I believe above all that the House of Commons should have a decisive say one way or another.

Moving on from that point, which I had the pleasure of making to my noble friend—

Lord Garel-Jones Portrait Lord Garel-Jones (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is it not the case that the point my noble friend is making about Parliament has already been made with great clarity by the Supreme Court—that Parliament approved the referendum but did not approve the outcome?

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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My noble friend Lord Garel-Jones was one of the best Deputy Chief Whips I have ever met—better even than my noble friend. Of course, he is right. But the point is that this Government have sought to prevent a meaningful vote in every possible way. I want to ensure, if I can, that Parliament in fact has a meaningful vote. I do not want to see it left to chance.

I need to turn briefly to what the amendments before your Lordships’ House say. I commented on Grieve I, which is not before the House. I have already summarised it and I acknowledge that it was directional and mandatory. That caused serious problems for the Government, which Mr Grieve understood. It was for that reason that Mr Grieve was negotiating with the Solicitor-General. Grieve II—that is the Motion before your Lordships’ House, and here I am referring effectively to subsection (5F)—requires the Government, in the absence of any political agreement having been made by the end of 21 January next year, to make a statement setting out how they propose to proceed and to make arrangements for the House of Commons to approve the statement by way of a Motion.

I have taken the best advice available to me. I believe that the Motion in the House of Commons would be amendable but not justiciable—that is to say, the Motion could not be enforced by legal action. However, the political consequences for a Government who sought to act differently from the Motion, whether amended or not, would be very grave. In that respect, Grieve II gives Parliament and, in particular, the House of Commons a meaningful vote.

Lord Grocott Portrait Lord Grocott
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Viscount talks about the political consequences of votes. Given that leaving the European Union has been the central objective of this Government since their election, does he not acknowledge that should they lose a vote enabling them to leave the European Union the inevitable political consequence would be that the Government would fall?

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
- Hansard - -

I am simply not going to speculate. The truth is that the world at the moment is extraordinarily unpredictable and all the parties are extremely divided on this issue, so I think it is wise not to speculate about what would happen if the Government lost, save to say that the political consequences would be very great.

However, I want to consider what the Government are offering by way of an alternative—in other words, how the Government are proposing to honour their repeated promise to give Parliament a meaningful vote. What is on offer—and it is only this—is as follows. In the event of no deal—that is to say, when there is every probability of the United Kingdom crashing out of the European Union, an outcome which in the eyes of most would be a calamity—the Government are offering a Statement followed by an unamendable take-note Motion. My noble friend’s amendment—she did not refer to its terms when she first introduced it—is that the take-note Motion should be in neutral terms. What is meant by “neutral terms”? It means that it may not express approval, it may not express disapproval and it will not be subject to amendment. The Government’s amendment not only fails to deliver the promised meaningful vote—that would be an act of omission and bad enough—but is far worse as the Government are seeking to make the promised meaningful vote impossible, and that is an act of commission, contrary to what Ministers have on many occasions promised. It deliberately removes the possibility of a meaningful vote and, moreover, the Government’s amendment is being brought forward at least in part by my noble friend Lord Callanan, who on 14 March in this House, to the amazement of everybody who heard him, said:

“We have never used the term ‘a meaningful vote’”.—[Official Report, 14/3/18; col. 1650.]


That statement was inaccurate as to fact, but deeply revealing as to intention.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
- Hansard - -

I am not going to give way. Much as I admire my noble friend, I am now going to proceed. I come to the last and fundamental question: why should this House support Grieve II? There are essentially three reasons for that. The first is this—if I can find it in my notes.

Lord Robathan Portrait Lord Robathan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, intervene.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
- Hansard - -

That is very kind of my noble friend but he has given me an opportunity to find my notes, so while I am grateful to him he is going to have to resume his seat. The first reason is this: the House of Commons has never had an opportunity to vote on the amendment, so it is a matter of procedural propriety. Secondly, the Government have failed to deliver on their promise to provide a meaningful vote. Grieve II represents the agreement negotiated in good faith between the Solicitor-General and Mr Grieve but which others thought fit to reject, so it is a matter of honour.

Thirdly, and by far most importantly, it is in the national interest. I appreciate that the Prime Minister faces great difficulties in the conduct of these matters. There are serious divisions within her Government, divisions reflected within all the parties and indeed within the country itself. However, consider where we are and how we got here. The Article 50 process was triggered without any collective agreement as to the desired outcome—indeed, without any collective agreement as to the negotiating framework. Now, just a few months before the deadlines expire, that remains the situation.

This is not an occasion for anything other than temperate language—the political temperature is already far too high—so I shall content myself with questions. Was it wise, prudent or responsible to start the Article 50 negotiations without a firm collective agreement as to where we wanted to go or how we were to get there? Was it perhaps a serious error of judgment to trigger the Article 50 procedure without there being a clear policy on these matters? Is it right that, in the absence of a deal, Parliament should risk crashing out of the EU on the basis of a take-note Motion cast in neutral terms and as a result of the unconstrained decisions of Ministers—these Ministers?

Your Lordships’ answer to those questions may help you to decide whether, to safeguard our nation’s vital interests in the event that there be no deal on the table, Parliament—and here I mean the House of Commons—should have the authority to intervene. Ministers, the Prime Minister in particular, have promised a meaningful vote. As yet, that promise has not been honoured. My noble friend’s amendment frustrates, and is intended to frustrate, that commitment. If your Lordships want Parliament to have a truly meaningful vote then Parliament must insist, and the Grieve II amendment would enable the House of Commons to do that. I beg to move.

Motion F4 (as an amendment to Motion F3)

Moved by
--- Later in debate ---
Motion F4 (as an amendment to Motion F3) withdrawn.
Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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My Lords, I sense that this House wants to come to a very early conclusion, so I will conclude by saying a word to my noble friend Lord Spicer. He is a very old friend and a very distinguished chairman of the 1922 Committee. I will be very sorry indeed if he ceases to appear in this House, because he has had a very distinguished political career. I know that your Lordships want to come to an early decision; I wish to test the opinion of the House.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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Will my noble friend help the House in one respect? I am trying to understand whether the amendment in any way obliges the Government to do anything or in any way prevents them doing anything. It seems to me entirely neutral in its effect. Can he help us?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think I covered that in what I said earlier: we believe it to be unnecessary and pointless.

Going back to my noble friend Lady McIntosh’s questions, the second question she asked me was about contracts of employment of staff employed in those agencies. Of course, these are a matter for those agencies, but the rights of those UK citizens, as UK citizens in other EU countries, are guaranteed in the agreement we reached with the EU in December. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, asked me about the membership of agencies ending in March 2019. As set out in the agreement reached in March, during the implementation period common rules will remain in place and the UK may continue to participate in EU agencies where the presence of the UK is necessary and in the interests of the Union or where the discussion concerns acts addressed to the UK and its citizens.

In conclusion therefore, while I fully understand the intentions behind the amendment, I do not believe that anything would be gained from its acceptance in the Bill, apart from confusion.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley
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My Lords, Amendment 110 stands in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. It would quite simply prevent any sections of the Bill, when it becomes an Act, from commencing until the UK Government have adopted the negotiating objective of securing continued EU citizenship for UK citizens. I do not wish to rerun the arguments for continued EU citizenship which I presented during Committee. I would, however, point out that there was a massive response on the electronic media to that debate, overwhelmingly favourable to the viewpoint which I presented. This told me that the subject is very close to the hearts of thousands of people in these islands and is one which the Government should ignore at their peril.

Since Committee, the Minister has kindly allowed me to meet him to discuss these and associated matters. I was grateful to him for that and I better understand from where he comes on the issue. I hope that he likewise understands from where I come, even if he does not agree with my viewpoint. Of course, some of the legal challenges are still being pursued and we await their outcome. I would, however, like to respond to two concerns raised during Committee.

The first is the issue of reciprocity and whether EU nationals should be offered British citizenship. Regardless of my personal opinion, this is not what is proposed in this amendment. My argument is that it would be illegal under international law and European law for the UK or the EU to take away our European citizenship from those of us who already hold it. For those who are not currently European citizens—for example, those who will not be born until after Brexit—I believe that we will need to negotiate a form of associate European citizenship. This is, in fact, what I understand the negotiator on behalf of the European Parliament, Mr Guy Verhofstadt, has been calling for. That would require a provision to be negotiated into the withdrawal agreement. Whether or not we offer some form of associated British citizenship to EU nationals would therefore be a matter of negotiation at that time. I very much hope that the Minister can assure the House that such an option has not been explicitly ruled out.

Secondly, may I address the issue of whether there is a solid precedent? I want to reiterate the Irish example, which I explored informally with the Minister earlier but which is still material. Following the creation of the Irish Free State—now the Republic of Ireland—and Northern Ireland, a comparable situation occurred. Irish citizens who reside in the UK, while remaining Irish citizens, are permitted to enjoy all the benefits of UK citizenship, including freedom to take up residence and employment in the UK, and to play a full part in political life, including voting in parliamentary elections and seeking membership of the national legislature—that is, becoming a Member of Parliament. Am I not right in asserting that this state of affairs will not be affected by the UK leaving the EU? Can the Minister confirm whether this is a correct interpretation?

The Irish state also offers citizenship to all residents on the island of Ireland; people resident in Northern Ireland can therefore choose British, Irish or dual citizenship. This is an example of citizenship being on offer to those residing outside the granting authority’s jurisdiction and, I suggest, is therefore pertinent to the case I am making.

When Plaid Cymru sent a letter to the Prime Minister setting out its position on this matter, it was supported by the leaders of other parties including the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, by a range of legal experts and by a host of organisations which are concerned about this matter. My party secured an Opposition day debate on this issue in the House of Commons, which passed without division a Motion on this matter—in fact, the first Motion that Plaid Cymru has ever succeeded in getting the House of Commons to pass in that way. The debate was well attended and support came from the Labour and Conservative Benches and from SNP, Liberal Democrat and DUP MPs. In other words, there was a broad consensus in favour of the objectives being discussed, which are crystallised in this amendment.

The Minister may not be in a position to accept this amendment, as no doubt he will shortly tell us. But if he takes such a line I hope that he will also take the opportunity to assure UK citizens that in the negotiating process, the Government will seek to achieve the fullest possible agreement on a wide range of citizen-related issues and that this worry, felt by so many, should be overcome if a successful negotiation does transpire, leading to an agreement. I beg to move.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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My Lords, I have often been in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, in the course of these debates but I hope that he will forgive me on this occasion if I do not go with him. I wholly agree with the underlying sentiments that he has expressed; my concern is with the word “objective” because it is very difficult to define at any one time what an objective truly is. Some are stated and some are unstated—and even if stated, they may not represent the true state of mind of the person making the statement. The problem with an amendment of this kind is that it is capable of giving rise to litigation. I just do not see how a court could ever seriously determine whether the objective of a Government at any one time was sufficiently truly stated to give rise to the remedy which I know will be sought by the litigants. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, although I agree strongly with his underlying sentiments, I do not think this is the way to achieve that objective.

Lord Dykes Portrait Lord Dykes
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My Lords, notwithstanding the very reasonable sentiments just expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, I think that I would be among others in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, for the way in which he has taken the initiative on this subject. It is becoming increasingly complicated with the approach of the so-called exit day—whatever date that may be in legislation and so on—and, therefore, we need to think very carefully about this. Although this was a long time ago, I recall that the Maastricht treaty bestowed on citizens of each member state individual citizenship as EU citizens, too. It was a solemn and profound moment when that was announced many years ago in 1992, and it was made much of, mostly in the other member states but also in Britain as well. A lot of British citizens who were working abroad were delighted at the idea of being citizens of the European Union as well, which added to their obvious practical freedom of movement, although that was not essential to it.

We have now got to be very careful to make sure that the Government respond to the civilised and reasonable request for them to expand their minds a little bit into thinking about this matter, because it will be quite complicated. There is the question of the Irish Republic’s offer, which has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and the special status that may emerge in Northern Ireland, not deliberately, according to the DUP, but accidentally. It is not much to their liking that a special status would be accorded to people there and they would remain individuals citizens of the EU. Is this a matter of collective bestowal of citizenship because of the Maastricht treaty in 1992, or is it now a matter of it being an individual proclivity if the right was there, given that there are exceptions to the idea that you have to be within only one member state to be a citizen and you can apply for citizenship from outside? It therefore may be that the very act of applying for citizenship and continuing to have the protection of the ECJ as individuals because of the bestowal of European citizenship would need to be included in this wide examination. It is a very complicated matter and should not be excluded from people’s mind and, mostly, the Government’s mind. They may be very unwilling to consider these matters, but they need to do so and we are grateful for this amendment and this debate.

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Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean
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I am sure that the noble Lord was not among those jeering when I was trying to make my points earlier and that his advice to his colleagues will be well received. He said, “Take it down a notch”: he is proposing that we fly in the face of the biggest democratic vote in our history and that, as unelected Peers, we ask the House of Commons to consider a matter which has been considered before and not concentrate on what we are here for, which is improving the legislation in front of us.

The noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, said that this is sort of connected to the Bill. There will be an opportunity for us to consider this matter at the end of the negotiations. The Government have promised to bring forward legislation on the agreement and have promised a vote in both Houses on this matter.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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A meaningful vote.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean
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My noble friend says “A meaningful vote” from a sedentary position. By that he means a vote to reverse what the British people voted for in a referendum. There will be a vote on the negotiation and on the agreements which have been reached. I urge this House not to undermine the position of the Government in their negotiations or that of the Prime Minister by seeking to argue that her objectives cannot be achieved.

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Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Faulkner of Worcester) (Lab)
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It may be for the convenience of the House if I remind your Lordships that we are debating Amendment 70 and the other amendments in the group. The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, spoke to Amendment 84, which is grouped with Amendment 70 —but agreeing to Amendment 70 is the question before the House.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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My Lords, I support Amendment 70, moved by my noble friend Lord Lisvane. May I express the hope that it serves as a precedent for use in other legislation? The parliamentary control of statutory instruments is notoriously inadequate. I speak with a considerable degree of experience, having lived through some 31 years of statutory instruments. We know that far too much legislation is passed through this House without any sensible scrutiny, discussion or amendment. I personally have always argued for the amendment of statutory instruments. I ventured to put forward proposals in Committee on this Bill. They did not make any progress, and I know full well that they will not do so in this Bill now.

However, the suggestion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, is a useful first step in that it would require Ministers to explain why the negative procedure has been adopted. Furthermore, it would give Parliament the opportunity to transform a negative procedure into an affirmative procedure. While the affirmative procedure is far from perfect, it is a great deal better than the negative procedure and, on that basis, it is very much a useful first step. I support the noble Lord’s amendment and I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, that I have a strong support for her proposal, too. It seems to me that transparency is a very good idea—but I will make one caution, if I may. There will be times when statutory instruments take an emergency character, and the 10-day limit could cause a serious problem. That will need to be addressed if her amendment makes further progress.