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Government statement on the process for invoking Article 50

DianneHayter.jpgDianne Hayter speech in the House of Lords, 7th November

I thank the Noble Lord the Minister for repeating the statement – which I sort of feel he had no hand in drafting. My guess is that he would have preferred to get on with allowing Parliament to trigger Article 50. Indeed, how much better it would have been had the government listened to the wise words of our Constitution Committee in September when they said that a parliamentary vote was going to be needed.

It’s really quite hard to understand why the government is getting into such a tizzy on this. Rather like after its tax credit defeat – an over-reaction when faced by any challenge.

My Lords, in September, I commented that “leaving the EU is not a simple step outside but a journey”.

But, will we leave Brussels via Dunkirk or through Oostende? Or by train through Calais? By plane via Dublin? Or, heavy forfend, by the good ship Titanic piloted by Boris Johnson?

These are serious matters. In our economy, highly dependent on services:

  • we have to secure a future for our creative, internet, design, legal, engineering, and financial services and for intellectual property;
  • we must be sure our insolvency practitioners, chasing down funds for UK based creditors, have access to squirreled wealth in EU countries (currently allowed for under the mutual recognition of appointments), and that our lawyers retain rights of address, and legal privilege;
  • we need to safeguard the future of UK nationals living abroad as they lose their EU citizenship; and,
  • we also have to disentangle our competition law from that of the EU – developed to protect consumers from monopolies and cartels – whilst helping our exporters who will still be subject to EU competition rules.

Until we know the terms on which we will leave the EU, and our relationship with the remaining 27 after we leave, we can’t negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world. So the terms on which we disengage from the EU – and their consequences – should be debated in Parliament.

Parliament needs to question whether the Prime Minister has the right negotiating objectives for how we leave the EU:

  • What priority will she give to remaining in the single market?
  • Is she safeguarding – indeed promoting – our regions, which have done less well from globalisation?
  • Seeking to enhance consumer, environmental and workplace protections?
  • Are her objectives grounded in security considerations, and in promoting human rights?
  • And are they acceptable to the electorate?

My Lords, the British people decided we should leave the EU. But it is for Parliament – not simply Downing Street, to debate the exit details.

Whichever route we take, we have a long journey ahead of us. In that time, my fervent hope is that we see no more of the British press – which ought to recognise the sovereignty of Parliament and the independence of our judiciary – printing 72-point headings naming the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chief Justice as: “Enemies of The People”. Simply for doing their job and pointing out that, constitutionally, "the government does not have power under the Crown's prerogative to give notice pursuant to Article 50 for the UK to withdraw from the European Union."

My Lords, the High Court ruling will not derail Brexit. However, given that the government was caught short by the referendum result, with none of the preparatory work done in case of a Brexit outcome, could I ask the Minister to assure the House that it will not find itself in the same position this time if the judgement is upheld, and that a Bill is in preparation?

My Lords, our EU committees have already started work on the issues to be addressed. Could the Minister confirm the government will listen to the experienced and knowledgeable words of these colleagues as they report?


Baroness Dianne Hayter of Kentish Town is Shadow Brexit Minister in the House of Lords. She tweets @HayteratLords

Published 7th November 2016

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