Ros Scott on the Article 50 Bill and how Brexit has affected the Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat Peer Ros Scott has been talking to FNF Europe about the Article 50 judgement this week, the progress of the Bill through Parliament and the effect Brexit has had on the Liberal Democrats.

First of all, she spoke about the significance of the Supreme Court judgement:

[The judgment] is mixed news for the Government; Parliament may well now be more confident in asserting its rights as the negotiating process unfolds and issues such as access to the Single Market, the acquired rights of citizens and membership of EU bodies will be hotly contested. If the impacts of triggering Article 50 are as damaging as some predict, then the context of future debate may change significantly. On the other hand, Government will be relieved that the ruling has neutralised the Scottish First Ministers threat to derail Brexit.

She said that the Commons would pass the Bill very quickly but that the Lords was a different kettle of fish entirely:

The House of Lords is going to be much more difficult and harder to predict. It is an unelected House with a significant pro – Remain majority, with rules of procedure which make it more difficult for Government to force the Bill through at speed. Liberal Democrat Lords will attempt to amend the Bill to ensure a Referendum on the outcome of the negotiations, and may get considerable support in a Chamber which is much less politically partisan.

The big question is how far the Lords is prepared to take the fight. The constitutional conventions are well established to ensure that the primacy of the elected Chamber is upheld. The Lords sees its role as a scrutinising and revising chamber and to attempt to go further would provoke a constitutional crisis. It is almost certain that after some protracted procedure, the Government will get its way and the Prime Ministers pledge of triggering Article 50 before March will be met.

She said that the referendum result had “breathed new life” into the Liberal Democrats:

For the Liberal Democrats Brexit has breathed new life into a Party many thought was finished after their rout in the 2015 General Election. For the first time in years they have a position on the big issue of the day which is well understood and distinctive.

New members have been joining the Party since May 2015 and the Party has enjoyed success in local government elections recently, including in strongly Leave voting areas. They performed well in the by-election triggered by David Cameron’s resignation, and won a sensational victory in the London suburb of Richmond on Thames in a Parliamentary by-election dominated by Brexit.

You can read the whole interview here.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • John Barrett 29th Jan '17 - 11:37am

    As ever, Ros speaks great sense, especially in the following, “The House of Lords is going to be much more difficult and harder to predict. It is an unelected House with a significant pro – Remain majority………and………… the big question is how far the Lords is prepared to take the fight.”

    If the Lords wish to stand in the way of the elected House, or the will of the majority who voted in the Referendum and take this all the way, it will not only be a problem for the Lords, it will also be a problem for our party.

    The wish to have a second vote is something I disagree with Tim on and now we have only 9 MPs, we are in danger of looking like a party where our unelected Peers have much more influence than our elected MPs. The majority of Tim’s spokesmen and women are also from the Lords. If this is the case that unelected Peers are driving the opposition to Article 50, or even if it looks like the case, it will weaken the party in future elections.

    The interview with Tim just before the referendum, where he thought Remain would win and where he was strongly against any second vote, has been quoted on this site by myself and others. A second vote on the EU also plays into the hands of the SNP, who are pushing for a second vote on independence, while our party (rightly in my opinion) opposes another vote on that issue.

    We should take every opportunity to link up with the wider public on a range of issues, not just Brexit, and to do that we must be seen as a party the public can connect with. I appreciate that many of our Peers are not distant from the wider public, but the perception can be very different for the majority, who rely on the media for their information and news.

  • David Allen 29th Jan '17 - 4:02pm

    “The interview with Tim just before the referendum, where he thought Remain would win and where he was strongly against any second vote, has been quoted…”

    Then it has been quoted as a horribly misleading non sequitur. Had Remain won, there would have been no big negotiation, no big changes, no momentous choices between “soft” and “hard” Brexit, in fact nothing at all to have a second vote about!

    There has to be a second vote when we finally find out what potential agreement with the EU (if any) has been negotiated. Leaving that second vote to Parliament is fraught with dangers.

    One bad scenario is that the MPs, knowing that the Brexit terms are truly disastrous, finally reject them and insist on staying In – and angry Leavers riot on the streets. An alternative bad scenario is that May calls a snap election this Spring, wins a landslide, then negotiates a disastrous deal with the EU and dragoons her MPs into voting it through – and it is angry Remainers who riot on the streets!

    If May rejects the compromise which Tim Farron (and Owen Smith) have proposed, she is simply asking for trouble.

  • David Hughes 29th Jan '17 - 7:16pm

    On Sunday Politics West today Tory MEP Julie Girling came out in support of a (second) referendum on the terms of Brexit. Is she the first Tory remainer to support our line?

  • David Keigwin 29th Jan '17 - 8:34pm

    So let’s get this right, you think a second referendum suggested by MEP Julie Girling is a good idea, does that mean the Lib Dems will put there hand in there pocket and fund a second referendum, or as expected, the tax payers will pay for it again.
    I’ve always thought that joining this club was a bad idea from the very beginning, not forgetting we never joined the EU at all, we joined what we were told at the time, we joined a Common Market, that turned into the EEC, then the EU. Just a very expensive club we can’t afford, but then, the only people that have made a fortune are of course the MEPS.

  • Chris Johnson 29th Jan '17 - 10:59pm

    could you please tell me when your party is going to change its name and drop the Democrats as you clearly only like Democracy when it suits you. Please tell Tim Farron that it was perfectly clear that leaving the EU meant leaving the single market. As to stay in the open market meant we would have to accept freedom of movement. David camern, George Osbourn Boris Johnson all made it clear many interviews .Andrew Neil has played various clips of them saying this to Tim Farron and Nick Clegg and they still insist that we did not know. Also the government spent over 9 million pounds sending a document to every household which stated that leaving the EU would mean leaving the Single market.
    I used to vote LIbdem n the past and agreed with your ideas on proportional representation has I have always felt my vote was wasted as The areas I have lived in were always strong tory or labour areas. My friend even stood for election in Sunderland as a libdem candidate. At that time you could have put a monkey with a red rosette for labour and it would have been elected. The one time in 40 years of voting where my vote counted for anything was the referendum. I think it is a disgrace for a party that has democrats in its name to ignore the majority of people that voted for leave in the biggest ever mandate in british history. The MPs should voote for article 40 to be triggered and then help to ensure we get the best deal possible.
    There is no reason to have a 2nd referendum because as I said earlier people did know what they voted for when voting to leave. By the way when I was outside the polling station I overheard about a dozen teenagers saying that they had voted Remain as it was the first box. It is a disgrace to make out that people did not know what they were voting for when they voted leave. It will be interesting when we get the next government elected with 52% of the electorate voting for them.

  • @ David Keigwin
    “expect(ed,) the tax payers will pay for it (referendum) again.”

    As far as I know the only costs paid for by central government was the government information leaflet (c £9 million). The free post is not paid for by the government as far as I know, the extra admin just being met by Royal Mail (and the printing costs paid for by the campaigns). The campaigns were all privately funded with no direct government funding (there might have been indirect funding, in that say that the UKIP EU group got EU money and used some of it during this campaign, but they would have got the money anyway even if it hadn’t been spent on the referendum).

    I find it very odd that no one has commented that the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill does not list which act of Parliament or sections of acts of Parliament that will be automatically repeal after Article 50 has been triggered and we reach the end of the exit process. I think this bill should be ruled as out of order as I don’t know of any other bill (Act) that repeals parts of other acts of Parliament without specify the sections repealed. (Perhaps the last time was in 1485 under Henry VII.)

  • Ian Hurdley 30th Jan '17 - 9:12am

    I attempted to launch a Gov.ukpetition in support of a new referendum on the terms of the deal ultimately reached with the EU, urging that as it will deal with matters not forming part of the original referendum question, it is not simply ‘a second try at overturning the original result. I gathered the necessary support, but the petition has been rejected on the grounds that it is a party matter, not a government or parliamentary matter.
    Nevertheless I believe it is crucial, so here and on other appropriate sites, I am asking all who share this view to demand that their own party permit a free vote on the deal, which would offer the choices “This is a good deal; we accept it” or, “This is a bad deal, we should remain in the EU until/unless we can negotiate a better one.”
    If you agree, can I ask you to put pressure on our own leadership, and to urge your friends in other parties to put similar pressure on their own leadership.

  • Concerning the Article 50 Bill I think it is essential to have an amendment that requires the government to negotiate full membership of the Single Market. The nearest that Labour’s proposed amendments approach that is:

    ii) Establish a number of key principles the Government must seek to negotiate during the process, including protecting workers’ rights, securing full tariff and impediment free access to the Single Market.

    That is not good enough. Theresa May’s main reasoning for ruling out the Single Market is based on a technicality, that it would require Free Movement. That point needs to be put to the EU negotiations after Article 50 is triggered and so must be included in the A50 Bill. Membership of the Single Market is consistent with leaving the EU and there is actually a majority in favour of the Single Market. Is the Lib Dem party proposing such an amendment and, if not, why not?

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