A Tory former Cabinet minister has spoken of his ‘horror’ over Brexit and warned the EU was ‘devouring’ his party as Remainers railed against the flagship EU bill during the first day of a marathon 48-hour debate.
Arch Europhile Lord Patten of Barnes slammed his hand down and declared ‘I hate referendums’, branding them ‘appalling and a sin against parliamentary democracy’.
He said the EU referendum had been triggered to ‘manage’ the Tory party and it ‘blew up’ in the Government’s face.
Lord Patten of Barnes branded referendums ‘appalling and a sin against parliamentary democracy’
Lord Patten said the ‘great sphinx’ of EU membership was making ‘a pretty good job of devouring the Conservative Party’.
Brexit Minister Lord Bridges tore into Theresa May’s dithering over Brexit – warning the transition period will be a ‘gang plank into thin air’ unless there is more clarity.
He said the Government’s strategy risks descending into ‘meaningless waffle’ as the PM has failed to answer basic questions about what a future relationship looks like.
And he blasted Cabinet in-fighting saying that ‘day after day’ all Britons get are ‘conflicting, confusing voices’.
His extraordinary attack was delivered just months after he left the Government after falling out with Mrs May over No10’s Brexit strategy.
Former Brexit Minister Lord Bridges (pictured in the House of Lords today) tore into Theresa May’s dithering over Brexit – warning the transition period will be a ‘gang plank into thin air’ unless there is more clarity
Lord Bridges said: ‘My fear is that we will get meaningless waffle in a political declaration in October.
‘The implementation period will not be a bridge to a clear destination. It will be a gang plank into thin air.
‘The EU will have the initiative in the second stage of the negotiations and we shall find ourselves forced to accept a deal that gives us access to EU markets, but without UK politicians having a meaningful say over swathes of legislation and regulation.
KEY QUOTES FROM THE FIRST DAY OF THE LORDS BATTLE FOR BREXIT
Lord Bridges (Tory) said: ‘My fear is that we will get meaningless waffle in a political declaration in October.’
Lord Adonis (Labour) ‘Just the first say on Brexit was given to the people, so the final say should rest with the people once they see the terms proposed by the Government.’
Lord Mandelson (Labour) said: ‘The Government cannot behave as if it has a blank cheque to take Britain out of the EU in just about any vandalistic way it chooses.’
Tory Viscount Ridley (Tory) called the Lords ‘a gilded crimson echo chamber for Remain – a neo-Jacobite holdout for our king across the water’
Lords Leader Baroness Evans said: ‘It is about providing certainty and continuity for people and businesses. It is about ensuring people’s rights are upheld, and legal protections are maintained.’
Lord Foulkes (Labour): ‘Too many Remainers are throwing in the towel. It makes lemmings look cautious by comparison.’
Lord Hamilton (Tory) says if Parliament tells the country the UK can’t leave the EU then ‘I’ve no option but to take to the streets’.
Lord Hain (Labour): ‘Any [border] restrictions whatsoever would completely undermine the [Good Friday] agreement.
‘Border posts, customs personnel and surveillance technology could provide sitting targets for dissident republican paramilitaries to rerun the Irish border campaign of 60 years ago – also provoking the reactivation of loyalist counterparts to defend Ulster.’
‘Some may say this outcome would not be the end of the world. Some may say it’s inevitable.
‘My point today is this. At this pivotal moment in our history, we cannot, we must not, indulge in that very British habit of just muddling through.
‘With under 300 working days until we leave the European Union, we need to know the Government’s answers to these simple questions.’
He launched a scathing attack on No10’s failure to answer basic questions about what it thinks a post Brexit Britain should look like.
He said: ‘What is the country we wish to build once we have left the European Union?
‘Only once we have answered this question can we properly and fully answer the second question – what agreement do we want to strike with the European Union?
‘What do we value more, parliamentary sovereignty and control, or market access and trade?
‘Four months on, and there are still no clear answers to these basic, critical questions. All we hear, day after day, are conflicting, confusing voices.
‘If this continues, and ministers cannot agree among themselves on the future relationship the Government wants, how can this Prime Minister possibly negotiate a clear, precise heads of terms for the future relationship with the EU?’
The former Labour cabinet minister was the second to speak on the first day of a historic two-day debate on draft laws.
Lord Adonis’ wrecking amendment will be called to a vote late tomorrow night, and while it is expected to be defeated it could attract scores of protest votes.
Lord Adonis said: ‘We owe our fellow citizens the right to decide the terms on which Brexit should proceed.’
The former minister, who resigned from a government post late last year with an incendiary rant at Brexit, derided supporters of the mission to take Britain out of the EU.
He accused them of being able to ‘make lies sound truthful and give the appearance of solidity to pure whims’.
Pointing out there were more peers due to speak than in any other debate in the chamber’s 800-year history, he said: ‘It is symbolic and it is because of the magnitude of the issue at stake that I move this motion.
Remain ringleader Andrew Adonis (pictured in the Lords today) demanded a second referendum on Brexit today as he moved a wrecking amendment to flagship laws on leaving the EU
Former Labour cabinet minister Lord Adonis was the second to speak on the first day of a historic two-day debate on draft laws
‘Just the first say on Brexit was given to the people, so the final say should rest with the people once they see the terms proposed by the Government.’
Lord Adonis went on: ‘I say that the interests of the public as a whole do not lie in making Britain poorer. They do not lie in undermining the Good Friday Agreement.
‘They do not lie in diminishing trade and our people’s right to live and work across Europe.
‘They do not lie in scapegoating Europe and foreigners for the social challenges that we face and they emphatically do not lie in weakening our solidarity with Germany and France and the other democracies of Europe in standing up to Vladimir Putin and others who now and in the future threaten our borders, our lives and our values.
‘These are grave matters. We owe the House of Commons and the public our advice and I believe in due course we owe our fellow citizens the right to decide for themselves whether the Government’s Brexit terms should proceed.’
Arch Remainer Lord Mandelson also piled in and said a second referendum might be ‘unavoidable’.
He said: ‘The Government cannot behave as if it has a blank cheque to take Britain out of the EU in just about any vandalistic way it chooses.’
But other peers hit back at the Labour Remainers, and warned that Britain risked being plunged into a crisis unless the Bill is passed.
Tory Viscount Ridley calls the Lords ‘a gilded crimson echo chamber for Remain – a neo-Jacobite holdout for our king across the water’
Lords Leader Baroness Evans of Bowes Park said the Bill ensures we have a functioning statute book on the day we leave.
She said: ‘It is about providing certainty and continuity for people and businesses. It is about ensuring people’s rights are upheld, and legal protections are maintained.
‘It is vital to a smooth and orderly exit from the EU. My Lords, this Bill is not about revisiting the arguments of the referendum.’
Lord Dobbs, the author of House of Cards, told peers they would not be able to sabotage Brexit ‘but they might very well sabotage the credibility of this House’.
The debate took place after the leak of a civil service report that predicted Britain would be worse off outside the EU under any of the three main scenarios. It said economic growth could be 8 per cent lower in 15 years’ time, following a ‘no deal’ exit. Ministers dismissed the report as an ‘initial work’.
Lords Leader Baroness Evans of Bowes Park said it was an honour to open the debate on such an important Bill
Another contribution to the debate came from former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Empey has warned, who said the issue of the Irish border has ‘almost been weaponised’.
The peer argued the scale of the problem had been ‘grossly exaggerated’ and cautioned people over the language being used about the threat to the historic peace deal that ended the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
He complained many of those making such claims had not been involved in the Good Friday Agreement and had not spoken to those who were.
And Baroness Wheatcroft said another referendum may be ‘almost inevitable’.
Baroness Wheatcroft said if it was a referendum that led to the ‘mess’, another vote may be the ‘only way out’.
And she criticised the Government’s Brexit position, saying it was determined to lie in the bed it has made, as she suggested they ‘find a better bed’.
Tory former minister Lord Higgins called on the Government to consider banning referendums. The 90-year-old ex-Olympic athlete said: ‘It was the most sordid political campaign I can remember in my lifetime. It was riddled with lies.’
Tory MP Andrew Rosindell praised the Lords as an institution, but added: ‘Anything they do to derail or hamper a smooth Brexit would call into question the role of peers. The public just won’t understand it and calls for reform may become unstoppable.’