23 February 2017
The Battle for Brexit moves to the House of Lords this week.
The two-day long second reading of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill began in the House of Lords on Monday amid serious concerns that enemies of democracy in the unelected upper chamber would work hard to block the will of 17.4 million people. The bill was passed by the House of Commons with large majorities on both the second and third readings, with numerous dangerous amendments quashed. Perhaps their decision was influenced by the fact that, unlike the Lords, their political power is subject to public control through regular elections.
190 people were lined up to speak during the two-day showdown, including voices from both sides of the debate. Labour’s Angela Smith, who was booted out of elected office by the people of Basildon in 2010, defended the Lords’ role in the Brexit process. Lib Dem Remoaner Richard Newby, who has never been elected to public office at all, slammed Theresa May for vowing to control immigration and peddled lies about the allegedly widespread suggestion that we could adopt a Norway model. He boasted that “we do have the power to make the Commons think again”.
Lords in the EU’s pocket
One major cause for concern is the presence of a number of influential Lords like Kinnock and Mandelson who, due to their previous jobs as crooked European Commissioners, are due to rake in huge sums of money in European Union pensions. Kinnock himself took over a million during his tenure as a European Commissioner despite being rejected overwhelmingly as a political leader during the general elections of 1987 and 1992 – losing to Margaret Thatcher and then to John Major in one of the biggest upsets in recent history.
Mandelson – an ally of hated former PM Tony Blair – called for the Lords to reverse Brexit. He claimed, without evidence, that “this is not what a lot of Leave supporters backed when they voted in the referendum. Yes, they did want to leave the European Union. But they didn’t want to turn Britain into a poorer, politically isolated off-shore tax haven without reach or influence in the world.” He must have been living under a rock for the last eight months as the economy has gone from strength to strength and global partners have come out in support of our national independence.
But the Lords have not debated the bill alone. The Prime Minister Theresa May gave close watch as the debate opened on Monday, sitting just beyond the floor on the steps of the royal throne. The move was unusual but not unprecedented – Clement Attlee watched the Lords pass legislation giving independence to India, and the hated Ted Heath watched keenly as the Lords debated entry to the so-called Common Market.
May, who campaigned to Remain in June’s referendum, has moved slowly through the Brexit process but has at the very least listened to the will of the British people – vowing to begin Brexit officially in March and being clear about her ambition to produce a clean Brexit complete with an exit from the mad European single market. She has whipped much of her cabinet into shape too, and they took turns watching the action in the Lords during the second reading.
The next step
Following the successful second reading, the bill will move to the committee stage early next week before a decisive third and final reading. The committee stage could see the rise of parliamentary “ping pong”, warned about by Brexit Secretary David Davis last week, as they introduce amendments to the bill after engaging in line-by-line scrutiny. Amendments would then need to be considered by the House of Commons so wording can be agreed.
The bill will then move on to a decisive third reading where it will either be passed or rejected. A rejection could lead to a chaotic constitutional stalemate, forcing action from the Prime Minister if she is to meet her self-imposed deadline for invoking Article 50. We’ll be following the action closely as the moment of truth comes. Let’s hope the bill passes easily and we can begin the long-awaited process of withdrawing from the European Union.