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HomeNewsAndrew Tettenborn: MPs must over-rule pompous peers seeking to sabotage Brexit

Andrew Tettenborn: MPs must over-rule pompous peers seeking to sabotage Brexit


The House of Lords has always had more than its fair share of holy fools and sharp operators, and certainly continues to do so in 2017. A combination of these two is set fair, contrary to Winston Churchill’s warning that we should not “have all the disadvantages of being the gentleman while they have all the advantages of being the cad”, to have the effect of putting the UK in precisely this position over Brexit. We are talking, of course, about the votes carried in the Upper House to guarantee the rights of EU citizens already here to remain, and to demand a vote of both Houses of Parliament before any plan can be put to the EU.

The EU citizens’ guarantee is simply foolish. It sounds innocuous and humane: what’s wrong with a cast-iron assurance to those who’ll be staying anyway that – well, they can stay? Actually quite a lot. Oddly enough, if anything its effect is actually to weaken the position of our own citizens in the EU who scream most loudly against Mrs May’s position. Let me explain. No one on the UK or EU side wants or contemplates mass expulsions. With a clean slate both sides will agree in five minutes: your people can stay here and ours can stay with you? Done. But if we give way on our side, it is our citizens in the EU who will become the pawns. Imagine what the EU will say. Hm… if we were to let your people stay in the EU, and have the run of 27 states (which we don’t have to), what might you give us in return? A few billion euros? A quota of fish caught in UK waters? What have you to offer? The choice is yours, mesdames et messieurs…

Much more dangerous, however, is the demand for a vote of both Houses on any proposals. Once again this looks comfortable, easy-listening stuff, and any number of dupes in ermine will have voted for it from a vague warm feeling in favour of motherhood, apple pie and Parliamentary democracy. The trouble is that if it became law it would give a serious advantage to the EU negotiators, since it will deprive Theresa May of the opportunity to threaten a simple walk away in the absence of agreement. Indeed, there will be every encouragement for the EU side, encouraged by the likes of Jean-Pierre Raffarin of France, to offer Britain the worst possible deal they think they can get away with that will pass muster in Parliament: a matter they cannot say they were not warned about.

But it’s worse than that. This proposal is being orchestrated behind the scenes by pro-Remain sharp operators. Why? The answer is simple. If this vote, having gone the way they want, is not overturned in the House of Commons because of the obstinacy of people like pompous and self-important Tory Remainer Bob Neill, they will, one suspects go straight round to party with the likes of Gina Miller and Ken Clarke, cracking out the champagne in the BMW en route. They will calculate that there is a good chance to hope for a seriously bad offer from the EU, a refusal by the Remainer-stuffed House of Lords to accept it, and – whoopee! By default, we remain in the EU, as they wanted all along. The vote to leave would have been magically morphed into a vote to talk about leaving, with the pro-Remain parliamentarians having the last say. Game set and match to the reactionaries.

In short, both these amendments must be defeated. Anyone with the UK’s interests at heart must support Mrs May in her efforts to overturn them.

(Image: Herry Lawford)

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Andrew Tettenborn
Andrew Tettenborn
Andrew Tettenborn is a professor of commercial law at a well-known UK university, who also teaches in Europe and elsewhere. In the 2001 General Election he stood as Ukip’s candidate in Bath.

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