Dear Lords – please attach a parachute to the Brexit Bill

This week the House of Lords starts its 5 days of deliberation on the Article 50 Bill. The Brexiteers in Government have basically told them not to muck about with it or else. David Davis has even told them that it’s their patriotic duty to simply vote in favour of it.

Actually, there’s a very strong argument that it is their patriotic duty to put a brake on this Government’s relentless pursuit of the most damaging Brexit possible – Tony Blair’s “Brexit at all costs.” Hard Brexit doesn’t quite capture how relentlessly difficult the lives of many of the poorest people in our society are going to become if the Government gets its way.

It’s actually quite shocking to think that a Bill of this significance should pass through all its parliamentary stages in less than a month. Invoking Article 50 will be the biggest and most major change of direction in decades and it deserves much more careful consideration. It’s not being done in a vacuum. We have Theresa May’s statement of intent to pull us out of the single market and customs union. If that had been on the ballot paper, I doubt Leave would have won their majority. The people did not vote for this and so their consent must be sought.

There is every reason for the Lords to say to the Government something along the lines of: “We will vote for Article 50 to be invoked but only when certain conditions are met.”  One of those conditions,  given that they are unelected, would have to be one which brought the people into the equation – giving them a final say on the terms of Brexit, with an option to Remain which, entirely coincidentally, just happens to be Lib Dem policy. 

The Lords runs on convention and gentility. These are unprecedented times, though. A Government elected on barely a third of the vote has put this country in a perilous situation. They need to be made to think again.

Now, the Lords can’t stop the Bill completely. If they really played hardball, though, they could delay it for a year. They would certainly have the entirety of the right wing media on their case and the Government would call them every name under the sun, but their comeback would be very simple. Why not give the people their say? If you buy a kettle, you have the right to change your mind on that under consumer law. If you get married, you can change your mind on that, too. Why must the decision made on 23 June bind us for all time especially when the claims made by the Leave campaign wouldn’t pass normal advertising standards?

The Lib Dems in the Lords will be arguing for staying in the single market, giving EU nationals the right to remain and, crucially, that referendum. Quite a few of them are in the almost 200 lined up to speak in the next couple of days. Sharon Bowles, Lindsay Northover, Judith Jolly, Roger Roberts, Malcolm Bruce and Ming Campbell to name but a few.  We’ll be bringing you all their speeches.

I just hope that they will be willing to persuade  others to fight with them on behalf of the British people to give the Government an ultimatum. Either you accept the referendum on the deal or you have to wait a year.  And if the Government doesn’t give way, they just need to be asked, very simply, every time, “What are you scared of? Don’t you think the people will back you?”

I don’t hold out much hope for anything so dramatic, but if I were writing the script for the  Brexit movie, that is what I’d have them do. The country needs the Government to govern in the interests of the people and not to stick with what keeps the Conservative Party together. An opposition worth its name in the Commons would have pushed them to the wire on every vote. Instead, the whips could have spent the entire debate in their offices with their feet up on their desk playing Candy Crush and drinking the finest champagne.  The Lords now have the right and the duty to hold the Government’s feet to the fire and they should do it.

The House of Lords is not what we would want it to be. It is ridiculous that people who are unelected have this role. However, it is the system we have, and the system that both Conservative and Labour MPs lumbered us with. If we Lib Dems had had our way, the first elections to the House of Lords would already have happened.

So, I say to the Lords, this could be your finest hour. Be brave, be bold, be radical. The reason that the Parliament Acts (which stopped the Lords vetoing legislation) were introduced is because historically your predecessors did their damnedest to block great social change like Lloyd George’s People’s Budget and political reforms, the Hunting Act and equalising the age of consent for gay people. Tomorrow you have to deal with a Bill, the consequences of which could roll back much of the social and economic progress we have made in the last half century. Go get us, the British people,  the best Bill possible – and give us the chance to have our say on how (or even if) we leave the EU.

The House of Lords is a very polite place. What could be more polite than asking the people if the Government has got it right? The world isn’t going to explode if we wait a bit before invoking Article 50. There’s no reason it has to be done by the end of March. And if the Government is hell-bent on driving us over the cliff edge, the very least the Lords could do is attach a parachute.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Trefor Hunter 19th Feb '17 - 8:37pm

    The German Deputy Finance Minister said on HardTalk on the BBC news channel, ‘ this is the biggest ever negotiation in the history of the world’
    So why rush it?

  • George Biscuit Thief 19th Feb '17 - 9:12pm

    Brilliant piece. I think I’m finally starting to understand this 2nd referendum nonsense. I think we should stay in no matter what.

  • Steve Atkinson 19th Feb '17 - 11:19pm

    On the Andrew Married show today, Liz Truss was dismissive of the Open Britain campaign, saying ‘Remainers’ actually now want the Government to crack on with article 50 as soon as possible. I decided to poll my Facebook Friends, asking those that voted to Remain if they agreed with our Justice Secretary or if they’d prefer to be consulted along the way & on the final deal. So far 7 replies, 100% want the latter, go figure Liz!

  • Denis Loretto 20th Feb '17 - 8:26am

    In normal circumstances one would expect the upper house to act with the usual circumspection but these are not normal circumstances. If peers think the “hard brexit” we are clearly heading for would be a disaster they must act accordingly. In future generations their children and grandchildren may well ask – what did you do in the “war”?

  • Alex Macfie 20th Feb '17 - 9:00am

    Shocking that government ministers telling opposition deputies that they have a duty to vote with the government. That’s what happens in dictatorships, not democracies.

  • I kind of hope the HOL attempts this, Coz as a liberal, I’ve long thought it an anachronistic hangover from the days of surfs and gentry and this course of action would speed up it’s much deserved demise.
    However, this also tinged with sadness because one of things that attracted me to the Lib Dems was it’s commitment to reform and ultimately abolish the HOL. And now sadly it seems many are desperately clinging to it to keep Britain locked into another undemocratic behemoth. All within the rules, but not terribly dignified IMO.

  • Peter Watson 20th Feb '17 - 9:45am

    @Glenn “All within the rules, but not terribly dignified IMO.”
    Agreed. For years the Lib Dems have campaigned for an In/Out referendum on EU membership, a more representative House of Commons, and a more democratic House of Lords. The current position of the party is quite discomfiting.

  • Lib Dems do not care for the House of Lords as it is currently constituted, and want to reform it. And that is exactly why we SHOULD use it to defeat the government on Brexit. One of the things that has allowed it to survive in its current form — as an undemocratic body muzzled by a gentlemen’s agreement — has been the frequent reluctance of opposition Peers to rock the boat by voting against the government. At bottom, many Labour Peers support the status quo, and the most effective way to keep this status quo is to go along with the gentlemen’s agreement that keeps the Lords in its place, while also retaining its fundamentally undemocratic nature.
    Government ministers have threatened to abolish the House of Lords if it votes against the government’s Brexit plans. Well, let them do so. Perhaps then we can have a proper discussion about what to replace it with. Remember that it was the Tories who vetoed Lords reform in the Coalition government. For the Lords to give in to the government on Brexit would be to say that they are very happy with the second Chamber as it is, thank you very much. Lib Dem peers need to show our support for reform by rocking the boat so much that the House of Lords becomes untenable in its present form. Voting against Brexit would go a long way towards achieving this.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 20th Feb '17 - 10:22am

    Caron, do you really consider that it can be justified for an unelected chamber to try to block or alter legislation that has been overwhelmingly passed by the elected chamber? As Lib Dems we are opposed to the whole idea of an unelected chamber, aren’t we?

  • @Catherine Jane Crosland: The HoL functions with or without Lib Dem participation. As I wrote above, by voting down the government on such a keystone issue we can help trigger reform of the second chamber. Just letting the government pass its bill will only help the House of Lords continue as it is, as that is the whole basis of the gentlemen’s agreement that keeps it going.

  • @Alex Macfie

    That is the rankest form of politically opportunity and i think you know.

    What the Libdems are proposing to do with the lords over Brexit stinks.

    They have been calling for the HOL to be abolished for years.
    Now the Country has voted to leave the EU, House of Commons have legislated for it and now the Libdems hope to use the very thing that they wanted abolished to try and stop brexit.

    Stink, Stink, Stink.

    I had hoped that after all this EU / Brexit business is over with, the Libdems would be a party that I would maybe support / join.
    But given the parties attitude and behaviour of late and the sheer hypocrisy, I cant see how that can ever happen now for me or a lot of people.

    As usual Peter Watson, agree entirely

  • matt: So basically, you are saying that you oppose the HoL so support a course of action that would only have the effect of reinforcing its position? What I am saying is we should take a course of action that might FORCE REFORM. ALL politics is about opportunity. By your preferred course of action you are supporting the status quo

  • because I do not think you are being genuine in your reasons Alex, I see it as remainers seizing any opportunity to thwart Brexit at any cost. To the point were you are prepared to abandon all your values.
    That to me stinks and is not something that I could ever support.
    I expect this sort of things from the Tory Party. Not a Party that called themselves Liberal and democrat

  • @Catherine Jane Crosland – “do you really consider that it can be justified for an unelected chamber to try to block or alter legislation that has been overwhelmingly passed by the elected chamber?”

    If you respect democracy and support the whole rationale for the Separation of Powers embedded in our tradition then the answer to your question has to be ‘Yes’!
    The way people get appointed to the HoL I suggest is a different matter, if you object to members of the HoL’s being appointed then I take it you also object to judges (such as those sitting in the Supreme Court) being appointed…

  • William Tobin 20th Feb '17 - 11:40am

    I hope the House of Lords will act mindful of the 5½ million people were excluded from the Brexit referendum because they and their colleagues in the Commons considered them (us) either (i) too young (1.5 million, though 16- and 17- year olds can vote in Jersey, Guernsey, Austria, Argentina, in Scottish elections… and giving them the vote is SNP, Labour & LibDem policy), (ii) too long abroad (perhaps 2.0 million; my case; in violation of Article 21(2) of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives,” and even the Conservative Party considers this exclusion unjust, with its as-yet unkept “Votes For Life” manifesto promise, or (iii) too foreign (2.2 million; all permanent residents can vote without restriction of nationality in Jersey, Guernsey, New Zealand, Chile (after 5 years) …). 5½ million is quite a democratic deficit when the “Leave” majority was only 1.3 million.
    Sign & share the petition calling for votes for the excluded 5½ million so that all future voting may be more properly representative:

  • matt: As the government is prepared to railroad through Brexit at any cost, why shouldn’t opponents try to stop it? And we are not abandoning our values — Lib Dems have never advocated boycotting the Lords, and we have always supported reform. Using the Lords to hold the government to account, while also calling for the chamber to be reformed, is no different in principle from participating in elections under FPTP, while also calling for electoral reform. It’s the system, whether we like it or now.
    As for the Tories, it was they that vetoed HoL reform in the Coalition government, while the Lib Dems tried to push it through. Now that the Lords are threatening revolt, the Tories are suddenly threatening them with abolition. Lib Dems have not changed their principles. We continue to call for reform, but also continue to accept the reality that the Lords is what we have and can be used to keep the government in check. Again, just like FPTP.
    Only by rocking the boat will there be any chance of Lords reform. Make it too difficult for the government to control. That is how to get it abolished, not being compliant and letting the government get its way most of the time as per the gentlemen’s agreement. The Tories would LOVE it if the Lib Dems boycotted the Lords. They could just carry on without being held to account.

  • @matt – you’re forgetting less than 1-in-4 UK citizens voted to ‘Leave’ the EU; Zero have voted for whatever Brexit May and her government have determined they want. Thus it is right and proper that the organisations we have put in place to provide checks and balances to the Executive and use their powers to fully call the Government to account to explain both what Brexit they want and that they fully grasp the issues that will arise.

    Remember the ‘Leave’ referendum only came about because of “political opportunism” and May’s government is cynically using “political opportunism” in her pursuit of a Brexit with little regard for democratic oversight – so as far as Westminster is concerned, business as usual.

  • @ Catherine Jane Crosland. “As Lib Dems we are opposed to the whole idea of an unelected chamber, aren’t we?”

    This is in danger of becoming a habit, but I agree completely, Catherine. You were right on the nonsense and lack of proportion that Brexit is worse than the war in Iraq ( I shudder to think what my Dad’s comment would have been if Brexit had been said to be worse than his experience seeing the liberation of Belsen in 1945).

    I think there is also a bit of 2 and 2 making 5 with the role of the House of Lords. Frankly the party (particularly under its former leader) stuffed the House of Lords with donors, cronies and retired MP’s who already had a nice pension. By all means examine the legislation…. but if it is a repeat in reverse of 1910 then the party will lose all credibility (and I’m anti-Brexit !!).

  • Little Jackie Paper 20th Feb '17 - 12:06pm

    Roland – I’d be a bit careful about that. Whatever the referendum was, it most certainly was not a ringing endorsement of the EU. There really weren’t a lot of people belting out Ode to Joy on referendum day.

    And this I think is my problem. A second referendum is one thing, but ultimately I have to ask so what? Even if REMAIN won almost all of the political construct that has gone down badly (not just in the UK) is still there. The only change is TTIP, and that’s nothing to do with the EU. There’s no sign that free movement will become more reciprocal. The UK would still be a significant net contributor for the foreseeable future. If the evidence of the past five years is anything to go by there will be EU fiascos.

    The referendum exposed that grave reservations about (at least) aspects of the EU extend well beyond internal Tory melodrama. Where is the thinking on what can/should be done WITHIN the EU/EEA to make things better? I don’t see any political party talking about that. At the moment it seems to be about who can play procedural games best. Any number of other countries reconcile EU membership with steps to address concerns – I can think of several examples. If these countries do it then so can we.

    Without real thought about what can and should be done better within the EU/EEA all a second referendum will do is lead straight to a 3rd, 4th etc.

  • @David Raw: If the party in the HoL fails to use the opportunity to defeat the government on Brexit then it also risks losing credibility. I say bring on a repeat of 1910, as it might lead to the HoL itself losing credibility, thus creating the opportunity for meaningful reform. Reform will not be achieved by our continued participation in the gentlemen’s agreement that has sustained the unelected HoL since 1910.

  • Denis Loretto 20th Feb '17 - 1:05pm

    @Little Jackie Paper
    If you read the series of papers written by Nick Clegg on the brexit issue ( you will find as much as you could possibly want about how the UK might best proceed either in or out of the EU.

    As to the HOL we must expect that the Lib Dem members will follow the same line as the HOC party (with 2 abstensions) which was to vote for the triggering of Article 50 only if provision was made for a referendum on the deal negotiated. Bear in mind that after a period of doubt as to what the starting position of the UK government would be, it is now clear that so-called hard brexit is their aim i.e. breaking away from just about all of the co-operative measures long established with the other 27 EU members and then attempting to replace all this with a free trade agreement containing all that is judged to be of advantage to the UK with no or virtually no financial contribution, no special provision for freedom of movement and no jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice if and when there is any inter-country dispute. In other words cloud cuckoo land. Whatever emerges from the negotiations it will certainly not be this. Therefore it will be absolutely crucial to check with the British electorate as to whether they really want what the negotiators do come up with. More and more people (including many who voted leave) will begin to realise this as time goes on.

  • @catherine jane crosland: We are and we could have had an elected one had it not been stopped by both Tory and Labour. We are where we are with a chamber that has the power to delay damaging and poor legislation. They should do so.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Feb '17 - 1:56pm

    David Raw and Catherine Jane Crosland

    I only strongly agree with Caron on her passionate defence of the best reasons for the EU as a force for good, though I do not share the sentiment partly because and partly despite my father’s being from Italy and an awareness of the worst of corruption beyond the Channel !

    However, other than that and with the practicality involved I disagree with her stance , particularly on the comparison with the Iraq war, very strongly , although even there I understood that she meant the economic situation and other aspects could get so bad that tensions could erupt, again I am not fearful in this way .

    On this article I disagree more than both of those and as much as both of you, and , yes, even though we are possibly all three often having different views or our own particular emphasis, it reveals just how good the party is for not having two strong but divided wings, but , as a Liberal and Democratic one, various opinions, and common cause on certain issues.

    I believe to attach amendments in the Lords is justifiable and can enhance democratic accountability and we can support such input because of the May steamroller method. Beyond that , one year delays etc., would be a travesty of democracy .

  • paul holmes 20th Feb '17 - 2:17pm

    Caron, the vote on whether or not to initiate Article 50 was taken last June and 52% of all who voted, voted to initiate it ( like you I was on the other side and lost). If Article 50 is initiated nine months later at the end of March it is not exactly ‘rushing matters’ as you suggest!

    A little over a century ago in the crisis over the ‘People’s Budget’ the Lords finally dropped its opposition to measures voted on by the electorate, because it was threatened with being flooded with enough newly created Liberal Peers to prevent its undemocratic blocking of the clearly expressed view of the British electorate. Would you as a Liberal Democrat have accepted the argument from the Lords/Tory opposition in 1910 that the voters, in two successive General elections, had not understood the ramifications of what they were voting on and so the Tory Lords had a duty to save the electorate from their own ignorance?

    By all means those opposed to Brexit, in both Houses of Parliament, should voice their concerns, highlight the dangers, argue for Soft Brexit, seek to amend legislation, argue for a new Referendum on the final negotiated terms and so on. But the democratically elected Government said in its 2015 Manifesto that it would hold a Referendum and abide by the decision of that Referendum. The booklet sent out by that democratically elected Government to every voter in 2016 stated that this was the voters decision and the Government would implement it whatever the result. The voters then voted, on a clear cut question and after lengthy open debate, to Leave. If the unelected Lords, refused to allow Article 50 to be moved that would be as democratically unacceptable as the attempts by the undemocratic Lords to reject the People’s Budget a century ago.

  • @Paul Holmes I think saying “We’re not passing this unless you include a referendum on the Brexit deal” is entirely legitimate and democratic. It strikes me as very strange that people consider giving the people a final say on the deal as not democratic.

    The stakes are so high in this that I think that the Lords need to defy convention and assert themselves in the interests of the people. This is entirely different to 1909. The worst they can do is delay Article 50 by a year which would not be a disaster. But it would then be for the Government to explain why it was so opposed to giving the people a say on the deal. They want it all done and dusted quickly before people wake up to the fact that they have been well and truly had over the benefits of Brexit and the claims made by the Leave campaign.

  • paul holmes 20th Feb '17 - 2:45pm

    No Martin -I never said any such thing. I have had people like Michael Gove try and fail to put false words into my mouth during Parliamentary debates so you will have to try harder than that I am afraid.

    I was and am against Brexit but I was and am in favour of democracy.

  • paul holmes 20th Feb '17 - 2:59pm

    @Martin. As for what I will say when some of the damage from Brexit happens I will point out that damage and keep pointing out the misleading distortions of those who campaigned for Brexit. Ongoing democratic debate, after a decision you disagree with has been taken, is part of democracy. Which is why for example I still oppose the introduction of Tuition Fees by Labour and the increase in Tuition Fees first by Labour and then by the Coalition.

    I have to say though that I don’t sign up to the cataclysmic ‘it’s the end of the world as we know it’ school of thought on Brexit. Nor would I remotely subscribe to the view that Brexit’s consequences will be comparable to the illegal invasion of Iraq.

  • @LJP – “I’d be a bit careful about that. Whatever the referendum was, it most certainly was not a ringing endorsement of the EU. …
    And this I think is my problem. A second referendum is one thing, but ultimately I have to ask so what?”

    Don’t disagree, however, my original point was that both the referendum wasn’t a ringing endorsement either way, but that now the Government needs to live up to it’s own words and ensure it brings everyone together (although I’m sure there will still a few grumpy old men, only this time Farage won’t be among them); the HoL’s can assist in this.

    As for a second referendum, well, not only do I agree, but I would have thought that the experience of the Boaty McBoatface poll and the Referendum would give people pause for thought.

  • @ Roland “Remember the ‘Leave’ referendum only came about because of “political opportunism” “

    Was it only political opportunism then when Clegg spent years arguing for an in / out referendum?
    I know exactly what I voted for, I voted to leave the EU on the basis of controlling immigration, which meant leaving the single market and to able to make our own free trade deals with the rest of the world, which means leaving the customs Union. I am more than happy for our Government to strike a deal that would give is “some access” to the market / customs union if they are able to do so, but that is entirely different to being a member of those.

  • paul holmes 20th Feb '17 - 7:26pm

    No Martin. Once again you try to invent entirely false words to put into my mouth just because I don’t conform to your personal views. Please don’t.

    I believe that Article 50 should be moved because I believe in democracy even though I don’t agree with those who voted to Leave.

    I believe that the case for a Second/Further/New Referendum (delete according to taste) can be made as strongly as any democratic Party/individual likes, just as the Brexiteers did for 40 years after they lost in 1975.But I do not believe that arguing such a case should be allowed as a pretext to reject the absolutely clearly, democratically expressed decision of the electorate last June. Had Remain won by 52% to 48% but the Government had decided to Leave anyway you would have been outraged at such an undemocratic act.

    The case for or against the desirability or validity of future Referendums can be argued but retrospective wishful thinking cannot alter the fact that there was a Referendum last year and of course that the Liberal Democrats had argued since 2005 for an In/Out Referendum.

    I find comparisons of the effects of the illegal invasion of Iraq to the effects of a democratic decision to leave the EU to be absolutely breathtaking. As a result of voting to leave the EU we are not going to invade anyone (or be invaded), we are not going to bomb anyone, we are not going to foster the growth of terrorist groups, we are not breaking International Law or any other law.

  • paul holmes 20th Feb '17 - 7:30pm

    PS Leaving the EU has no bearing whatsoever on the UK’s obligations and duties towards Refugees under International Law.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Feb '17 - 8:21pm

    paul , caron, Martin

    The parallels with past scenarios are apposite and I would be against the blocking of Article 50 as well as in favour of the amendments . However, it is surely wrong to be pointing at each other, why should Paul be accused when he, like me in defence of Norman and Greg recently, is only supporting the electorate not saying he agrees.

    What worries me is there was and is a strong anti-Eu and Liberal and social democrat view little expressed. I do not share all of it , but as someone who believes that which is made with human hands and minds can be remade , why is it not possible that with a Liberal Democratic radical and moderate government , that Britain , post Brexit , could not actually prosper.

    What about fighting against the things we are against that we really could change.

  • If the twenty-eight percent of the population who voted “Brexit” are “the people”, who or what are the other seventy-two percent?
    When the excrement inevitably hits the fan, it will become all-too-obvious, (certainly in separatist Scotland and N Ireland), that the majority of the population either did not vote Brexit or, given all the lies surrounding the Referendum, felt unqualified to judge and so did not vote Brexit.

  • @John Hall

    What a dishonest way of presenting the facts and figures

    The turn out in the election was 72.21% (52 % of those voting to leave the EU)

    27.79% of the electorate did not vote at all and you are attempting to lump them all with the remain lot to further your argument.
    It’s a shoddy way of “attempting” to present facts in order to win an argument.

    whose to say that the demographics would not have been the same had this 27.79% of people voted?

    There are plenty of people who did not vote because they had complete apathy towards the EU vote either way, not because they felt unqualified to judge.

  • paul holmes 20th Feb '17 - 9:30pm

    John, the argument that the votes of those who did not in fact vote at all should be counted for anything let alone as Remainers (rather than Leavers) is completely unsustainable.

    If on the other hand you argue that their abstention in the Referendum invalidates that Referendum then you must also logically argue that every General Election, every local election, every Euro election and every Scottish Parliament/Welsh Assembly election is also invalidated because of the, usually much larger, %’s who do not vote in those elections. So much for democracy!

    The fact is that there was a higher turnout for the Referendum than for most recent General Elections and a majority voted one way -albeit a way that you or I did not agree with.

  • Hi Paul: i’m not asking for non-votes to be allocated to either camp, merely for them to be taken into consideration. You cannot expect ordinary, non-academic, hard-working people to devote their spare hours to work through the lies and possible social, economic and political consequencies of Brexit – doing something an academic with knowledge of researching a subject – might spend days and longer in doing!

    AND YES, I do argue that general elections and English and Welsh local elections are invalidated, (a) because they don’t use Fair Votes and (b) because people should be required to register a vote or a non-vote. The other, proportional systems could also register non-votes, but at least they don’t give victory to the loser in terms of he/she not having a majority of votes.

    Matt: See above. The figures I gave were what they were and refer only to FACTS,
    (ie the Truth). How do you KNOW that “plenty” (=?) of people………complete apathy”
    Isn’t that a tad arrogant and presumptious? You cannot justify your position with FACTS and belong to the Fantasy section of this medium.

  • I’m sorry Martin, you must have experienced a very different Referendum campaign to the one I took part in. Issues such as Sovereignity, finance and Free Movement of labour were central parts of the Leaver campaign not Refugees. Even Farage’s disgraceful rubbish implying that the whole population of Eastern Europe, Turkey etc would move here was about Free Movement of EU Citizens and not about Refugees.

    Leaving the EU makes absolutely zero difference to our obligations towards Refugees under International Law. You should be able to recognise this.

  • @John Hall

    “The figures I gave were what they were and refer only to FACTS”

    They were not facts, you distorted the figures to support your cause, the truth of the matter is you can not account for the intentions of the 27.79% of people who did not vote, therefore in a democracy these non voters have to be discounted in the results.

    ” You cannot expect ordinary, non-academic, hard-working people to devote their spare hours to work through the lies and possible social, economic and political consequencies of Brexit ”
    Oh here we go again, that old guff again, so unless you have a university degree your not intellectually reliable enough to make a decision. We live in a Democracy John where everyone’s vote is equal, It’s not 1866 anymore when the working class where not allowed to vote

    “How do you KNOW that “plenty” (=?) of people………complete apathy”
    Isn’t that a tad arrogant and presumptious? You”
    Where is your evidence to back up your claim that the majority of those who did not vote was because they did not feel qualified to do so? you have made that outrageous claim on this forum before with no evidence whatsoever to back it up.
    I put it to you that it is you who is arrogant and presumptuous by making assertions about “non academic” people being unable and competent enough to come to a decision about the EU

  • @John Hall

    “The figures I gave were what they were and refer only to FACTS”

    They were not facts, you distorted the figures to support your cause, the truth of the matter is you can not account for the intentions of the 27.79% of people who did not vote, therefore in a democracy these non voters have to be discounted in the results.

    ” You cannot expect ordinary, non-academic, hard-working people to devote their spare hours to work through the lies and possible social, economic and political consequencies of Brexit ”
    Oh here we go again, that old guff again, so unless you have a university degree your not intellectually reliable enough to make a decision. We live in a Democracy John where everyone’s vote is equal, It’s not 1866 anymore when the working class where not allowed to vote

    “How do you KNOW that “plenty” (=?) of people………complete apathy”
    Isn’t that a tad arrogant and presumptious? You”
    Where is your evidence to back up your claim that the majority of those who did not vote was because they did not feel qualified to do so? you have made that outrageous claim on this forum before with no evidence whatsoever to back it up.
    I would suggest that it is arrogant and presumptuous to make assertions about “non academic” people being unable and competent enough to come to a decision about the EU.

  • @Paul Holmes
    “Leaving the EU makes absolutely zero difference to our obligations towards Refugees under International Law”

    This maybe true – however is this really the point?

    My perception was that due to Europe’s inability to communicate a clear strategy for dealing with the huge influx, the resulting chaos led to pictures being beamed into living rooms most weeks of a disproportionate number of young men making their way across Europe via land a sea (often via people smuggling networks) to countries of “their choice”.
    – or at least that was the perception.

    Thus it is probably save to assume the line between economic migrant, refugee and potential criminal was becoming increasingly blurred in many voters eyes and minds.

    I think it is also save to assume that the implication of the ‘take back control’ message was that we will keep you save from these ‘waves of disaffected young men’ if you vote to do so.

    US/UK foreign policy surely has undoubtably contributed to the destabilisation of sections of the Middle East and North Africa in recent years and so it seems to me fair to argue that the refugee crisis is indeed partly of our own making.

    However, I accept that Europe’s apparent inability to deal with it, the chaos that resulted and the potential worry for our own doorstep (as many saw it) that resulted in so many votes for leave?

  • Please explain why, since being in or out of the EU has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with our obligations to Refugees under International Law. Neither does EU membership (or Brexit) have anything at all to do with whatever obligations the UK may have to Iraq following what, as I recall it, was neither an EU backed invasion or a UN sanctioned one.

    I must have missed the bit in the Treaty of Rome, Maastricht, Lisbon et al where it states that the EU is about World Refugee policy. Can you point me to the relevant sections?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 21st Feb '17 - 5:39am

    Lorenzo, I do agree with your comments at 8.21pm yesterday. It is perfectly possible for Britain to be outside the EU, and still be a liberal, progressive, outward looking country. After all, there is nothing necessarily liberal about being an EU member, and nothing necessarily illiberal about not being in the EU. Some people wanted to leave the EU for very liberal reasons – after all, there was a Liberal Leave group within the Lib Dems.
    It is true that the party as a whole has always been pro EU, but the most important principle is that the party has always been internationalist – which means being concerned about, and involved in, the whole world, not just Europe, and certainly not just the EU.
    I feel that many Lib Dem members are afraid of making these sort of points at the moment, because the party’s official position is so firmly focused on preventing Brexit, and because unfortunately there is a growing intolerance within the party of any opposition to the official party line.
    But we as a party do need to accept that Brexit is almost certainly going to happen, and start looking to the future. We should be both realistic and idealistic, and begin to build a positive, liberal vision for Britain’s post Brexit future.

  • Andrew Tampion 21st Feb '17 - 5:51am

    @Martin you seem to be in danger of falling into the trap of thinking that anyone who voted Remain in the referendum but who accepts the result is in some way a Traitor. Speaking for myself when I came to vote I took the positive and the negative things and decided (if forced to quantify by 60% to 40%) to vote Remain. But I am content with the result and not “hurting” I can see a positive future for the UK outside the EU albeit less positive than inside but I don’t want a second referendum and if you want a second referendum then you’re not speaking for me.

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Feb '17 - 7:54am

    I completely agree with Caron, not because the HoL has the necessary legitimacy, but because all other UK institutions have failed miserably in protecting British citizens (and residents) from harm.

    If you demand that the Lords now just shut up and wave through the legislation, you must also believe that it was democratic and legitimate that:

    – the Torys tried to settle a party-conflict by bringing the UK’s destiny into play
    – Parliament voted on a referendum without any description of the material consequences of either choice and no quorum
    – no prior consideration was given to Irish peace, Scotland, or the situation of Gibraltar
    – the leave-campaign lied
    – Murdoch tabloids dominated the press coverage
    – 16/17-year olds were excluded
    – many British nationals abroad were excluded
    – Involvement of Parliament required two court decisions
    – A PM and Cabinet unknown to voters at the time of the last election carries out Brexit as they want
    – Labour whipped it’s MPs
    – An ongoing debate is supressed
    – nobody except the Government shall have another say until Brexit is completed at the Government’s terms
    – the only permissible options shall be the Government’s negotiation result or nothing
    – Nothing meaning: the UK is in breach of its contractual obligations vis-a-vis the EU (meaning all cooperation is suspended) and can apply to the WTO

    If you are not ok with all of the above, the HoL (elected or unelected) is now your best hope.

  • Martin, yet again you invent complete falsehoods and attribute them to me.

    Please deal with my question -what has being in or out of the EU got do with Refugees? The EU was not set up to deal with refugees. It’s various Treaties are not about refugees. Hungary is in the EU and is most certainly not positive about refugees. Whether the UK is or is not generous in its dealings with refugees is absolutely nothing to do with whether or not it is in the EU. You are pursuing a completely false line of argument as well as repeatedly inventing things that I have never said.

  • Martin, for what the fifth time in a few hours, you completely invent words and views and falsely attribute them to me. Show me where I say that the EU “should not be dealing with the refugee problem”. That is a complete fabrication worthy of Trump or Farage.

    What I have pointed out is that whether the UK, or any other country for that matter, is in or out of the EU has no bearing whatsoever on what its attitude to refugees is or what its obligations are under international law. I have also pointed out that some members of the EU such as Hungary do not have a generous approach to refugees. Indeed -you criticise the UK Government over its approach to refugees yet in case you have not noticed the UK is a member of the EU, has been for 45 years since a Conservative Government took us in and will be for another two. The USA, until very very recently, had one of the most generous approaches to refugees of any country in the world -but it wasn’t in the EU.

  • paul holmes 21st Feb '17 - 1:42pm

    No Martin the words you quote show no such thing.

    Absolutely nowhere do I question whether the EU should deal with refugees. Absolutely nowhere do I say that the EU has gone beyond its remit. What I do is challenge your assertion that unless the UK is in the EU it will not deal with refugees or that by leaving the EU it will be abandoning refugees.

    Canada is not in the EU but it has one the most generous refugee policies in the world -so did the USA until recently. When the UK took in expelled Kenyan and Ugandan Asians it was not in the EU. International conventions on refugees have nothing whatsoever to do with whether a country is a member of the EU or not. Nor does being in the EU automatically mean a country fulfills its obligations to refugees as we have seen with some Eastern European members.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Feb '17 - 2:02pm


    You really are conveying an approach which I believe is very widely supported in our party and the wider society and I think can be heard and should. I am very thankful of having colleagues like you in our party.

    We need to recognise that even where we agree with party policy or do not , that policies come and go, agendas dominate and subside, the values continue and the philosophy is important.

    And, as you , Catherine , and many of us know, the idea of Liberalism and its purpose, is to promote the potential of the individual , fulfilled, within his or her community. I believe we can be tolerant of others who thus engage whether we agree or not on the EU , nuclear weapons , or anything at all on certain policies the disagreement is there, so that’s fine. We can and must behave as friends and colleagues, and , from a part Italian , part Irish background, I expect and accept robust and argumentative and emotional, as the norm some of the time !

    But the Englishman that I actually am, says, I say, steady on …!

  • We should remain in the EU if the result of a second referendum rejects the deal that is negotiated. A good idea or an extremely stupid one?

    None of the other EU member states wants us to leave. All they need to do is ensure that we get a terrible deal.

    And this bright idea is Lib Dem policy?

  • Martin, I am delighted that you have now gone back to saying what you think as opposed to saying what you claim I said or think even though I didn’t and I don’t.

    The point you now make is the same as you made yesterday evening -that ‘the refugee issue was to the fore in the Brexit campaign’. In response I can only say the same as yesterday, I don’t agree with you. The Brexiteers I campaigned and voted against seem to me to have had 3 main strings to their campaign namely (order them anyway you like) Free Movement of EU citizens, Sovereignity and money (the infamous £350 Million a week).

    I am puzzled by your further point that the UK is not pulling its weight on refugees but would have to if it was in the EU. Yet the UK is in fact in the EU, has been for 45 years and will be until 2019. The former PM, like you and I, campaigned for us to stay in the EU yet I am sure you would not agree with his approach to refugees whilst he was leading a country which was a member of the EU. Outside of the EU the UK will still be signed up to International Conventions on refugees and the UN for example does embrace a rather greater world view than the internal private club of the EU!

  • Andrew McCaig 22nd Feb '17 - 1:00am

    If you add up our membership of the House of Commons, plus our peers, they add up to almost exactly 8% of the total Parliament.

    If our groups in the two Houses vote together they are only being representative.. Votes taken in the House of Commons do NOT represent the will of the British people, in general, and we should not give any credence to the majoritarian parties that claim they do. The House of Commons is only marginally more democratic than the House of Lords, in my view… My vote has never once elected an MP..

    Meanwhile, I was listening to Paul Scriven the other week who said he is only in the House of Lords to get it reformed. So I imagine being told “vote against Article 50 and we will abolish you” is all too tempting!

  • Simon Freeman 22nd Feb '17 - 11:25am

    Sadly Brexit will happen, but we need-

    1. A Free Trade Deal giving access to the Single Market.
    2. Maintain rights of EU citizens living in UK and rights of UK citizens living in Europe.
    3. Maintain open border and peace between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
    4. Keep Environmental legislation, consumer rights legislation, employee rights legislation in UK laws.

    As things stand the House of Lords have every right to debate and pass amendments to the Brexit Bill. The Tories have always opposed reform so its hypocritical of them to say the Lords should just waive the whole thing through. Reform is urgently needed though. No one should get £300 a day, £1500 a week-is that £77,000 a year just to turn up and do nothing. To allow the Lords to just get bigger and bigger on prime ministers whims is bonkers. So lets have a reformed second chamber called the senate. Get rid of the hereditary peers and the bishops. (How can one religion have 24 votes in parliament when the others have none?) Cap the numbers at somewhere between 300-400. Allocate membership fairly across the nations and regions of the UK. members should be elected by the public. Have an election every 5 years on the same day as the Commons. Elect by a system of proportional representation-open minded as to which one. Constituencies based on historic counties or sub divisions of counties-south Yorkshire in my case. Keep functions of Senate the same as current House of Lords. Is there any chance of Lib Dems proposing this or something like this any time soon?

  • Peter Watson 22nd Feb '17 - 12:13pm

    @Simon Freeman “Reform is urgently needed though.”
    Really? If Lib Dems attempt to use the House of Lords to block, impede or modify legislation that they believe is fundamentally wrong then they are accepting its validity (however reluctantly), and if they do so successfully then they will be demonstrating the value of the Lords as it is presently established and undermining any need to reform it. And Lib Dems will continue to look like the most conservative and least radical of political parties …

  • Martin, simply because someone disagrees with you on rational factual grounds there is no excuse for your constant resort to personal insult.

    I have tried to discuss rationally with you first the question of whether it is right on democratic grounds to oppose the moving of Article 50 despite the clear Referendum vote in favour of doing so. Then you moved on to your contention that the the foremost part of the Brexit campaign was all about refugees. You and I disagree on both issues, though as I frequently remind you I campaigned and voted against Brexit and believe that we should campaign vigorously against the implications of Brexit.

    I can see no justification at all for your constant personal attacks, please stop it.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Feb '17 - 1:03pm

    Martin re Paul

    I am aware of the tone of this and avoid it . But at times I feel compelled to intervene.

    Yes we are all against Brexit in this thread . Why is it not feasible to be a Liberal Democrat and be for a liberal democratic Bexit, or at least now accept that we are having a Brexit , thus wanting to make it a Liberal Democratic influenced project.

    Why can you not understand that this country could have a far better government that does a great deal for refugees when independent of the EU, working with it ?

    You conflate and insinuate and fail thus. We are colleagues. Act like it or some of us shall have had it up to here with this ?!

  • @Simon Freeman – Your linkage of HoL reform to Brexit is plain daft, yet another example of taking your eyes off the ball. If we (the UK, NI and Gibraltar) are to get the most out of Brexit we need both the Commons and the Lords focused on the real event: Brexit; wholescale HoL Reform is a distraction.

    The questions which need to be constantly asked at this point in time are:
    1. Can the Government fully and clearly articulate the key stages of the full Brexit process ie. the next ten years.
    2. Is the Government’s take on how the economy will perform believable.
    3. Is this government going about Brexit in a way that will maximise the benefits.
    4. Is now (ie. in the next few weeks) the right time for the Government to invoke Article 50.
    5. Are the Government prepared for the scale of negotiations that invoking Article 50 will set in motion.
    6. Does the Government have a consistent objective to which everyone including the Brexit monkeys have signed up to, or is there still differences…
    and many more similar questions…

    As I’ve noted previously, if the answer to any of the above questions is no or not convincing then it is right for the HoL to everything in its power to delay Brexit and encourage the Government to get it’s act together.

    As for your rationale for urgent reform, well… The only question you should be asking is: Is the HoL effectively discharging the job that has been assigned to it? Only when the HoL fails to do it’s job, is it right to demand reform and there will be the will to do something. This isn’t to say I agree with the current set up, just that I don’t see any urgency in fundamentally changing the way peers are appointed, required to attend and renumerated.

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