Peer aims to block Brexit in Lords’ debate as Prime Minister May looks on (LIVE)
Former Labour cabinet minister Peter Hain is demanding that changes be made to the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) bill, including adding clauses allowing the UK to remain part of the single market and Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic to stay open.
While the peer acknowledged that he is an unelected representative, he pointed out that he had been “appointed” by his party and that two thirds of Labour voters were Remainers.
“That’s what I am reflecting, that’s my mandate,” Lord Hain, a veteran of the anti-Apartheid struggle, will tell the House throughout the debate.
“Especially as the Prime Minister is behaving as if she only represents the 52 percent of citizens who voted Leave. I don’t deny they won, or that the outcome has to be respected. But what about the 48 percent who voted Remain?
“The truth is the country was split down the middle – and still is. If the Prime Minister were really acting in the national interest, she would be representing them too. She would be pursuing a ‘one nation Brexit’ not a partisan hard, right wing Brexit,” he said, adding that Theresa May’s strategy is the equivalent of a “Trump Brexit.”
In a rare move, Theresa May attended the Lords’ session on Monday afternoon to listen to Lord Hain’s comments with a group of ministers and MPs in tow.
The PM and the Leader of the House of Commons, David Lidington, are set to attend the start of the second reading in the upper chamber, indicating the government is “taking very seriously” the Lords debate.
Some observers have interpreted the visit as a thinly veiled threat to the Lords – a reminder that elected politicians support the referendum results.
“Reminded me of Godfather II,” tweeted the Telegraph’s deputy news editor, Bill Gardner.
The House of Lords is seen to be a stronghold of EU supporters, as only 252 of the 805 seats are currently held by Conservative peers. Liberal Democrat and Labour peers make up 47 percent of the House and a further 178 count as crossbenchers.
The leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Evans, is expected to send a warning to her fellow peers on Monday, reminding them of the “primacy” of the Commons in questions of law.
“In May 2015, a Conservative Government was elected with a clear manifesto commitment to ‘negotiate a new settlement for Britain in the EU,’ to ‘ask the British people whether they want to stay in on this basis, or leave’ and, to ‘honor the result of the referendum, whatever the outcome,’” she will say, adding
“This Bill is not about revisiting that debate. This Bill is not the place to try and shape the terms of our exit, restrict the Government’s hand before it enters into complex negotiations or attempt to rerun the referendum.
“This Bill is the beginning of a process and a discussion we will be having in this House and the other place for several years to come.”
The debate will be taking two days and propose any agreed amendments for the Commons to consider.