Brexit is “under attack” and peers are overstepping their power by defeating Theresa May over the issue, a former Tory chancellor has said.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick said that it was not the job of the second chamber to rewrite the government’s Brexit plans. He also suggested that Britain would be able to cope without securing any free trade deal from the EU.
In a speech on the reaction to the referendum, he urged his fellow peers to “see sense” over their threats to alter the government’s Brexit bill, which gives ministers permission to begin the process of leaving the EU.
Peers have already voted to allow EU nationals already in the UK to remain and they are expected to vote through a change tomorrow which would force the government to give parliament a vote on the Brexit deal while there was still time to alter it.
Lord Lamont, a Brexit supporter, said that peers should not use their right to scrutinise legislation as an excuse to frustrate the referendum result. He also raised concerns about lawyers “concocting some mysterious challenges” to Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc.
“The result was clear, the question was simple and unambiguous and yet Brexit is under attack on several fronts,” he said. “Some say maybe in the future the British people will change their minds. By that they mean they would like to change their minds for them.”
He said that adding conditions to the Brexit Bill was “not the same as scrutiny” and that “common sense must prevail” among peers.
“Amendments should not be used as a cover by those who are seeking to oppose the results of the referendum,” he said. “I hope that my colleagues in the House of Lords will see sense and I look forward to Article 50 being triggered as soon as possible.”
He said that Philip Hammond, the chancellor, was right to “hold back” in the budget to shore up the country’s finances.
“We want to have the strongest possible financial position to deal with any squalls in financial markets ahead and the one thing that will reassure them is if Britain’s finances are under control,” he said. “I know the chancellor believes that outside the EU we have great opportunities.”
The prime minister’s spokesman said that offering a vote before it had been ratified by the European parliament could allow EU nations to give Britain a bad deal.
“It’s a bill with a simple purpose,” he said. “The prime minister believes we shouldn’t commit to any process that would incentivise the EU to offer us a bad deal. If we’re in a position where any vote negotiated by the PM could be rejected by MPs, then obviously that gives strength potentially to the other parties in this negotiation and our view is this should be a simple bill in relation to triggering Article 50 power and nothing more.
“We shouldn’t commit to anything that would incentivise the EU to offer us a bad deal in the hope of stopping us leaving.”
March 6th, 2017: Times