This week the EU Withdrawal Bill begins its passage in the House of Lords. I doubt that it will be well received.
The Lords has a tiny proportion of euro-sceptics, and is -on the contrary, disproportionately populated with former senior civil servants and ex-Brussels mandarins.
Last February, fully 9 months after the Referendum, I was asked to debate the question ‘the UK is leaving the EU’ in front of a City of London audience. My opponents -arguing that they would prevent our departure- were Lord Butler, a former cabinet secretary, and Lord Lester, one of our most senior lawyers.
Even just a fortnight ago, when the Lords were debating an aspect of the Brexit negotiations, Lord Kerr (who actually drafted the Article 50 clause in the Lisbon Treaty, and was so keen to remind us recently that we can still change our minds) spoke of the UK having to ‘come to heel’. A rather shocking canine analogy of the way that so many of their Lordships view the proper subservient relationship of the UK to the EU.
As our negotiations to leave the EU have proceeded a string of parliamentarians have undermined the Government by their public pronouncements and actually going to Brussels to counter-brief Barnier, Tusk, and Juncker.
Their strategy is Threefold: First, to delay the process of leaving as long as possible in order to provide opportunities for events to intervene.
Second, to demoralise the public with a constant diet of gloom and disaster about their chosen path. The ‘project fear’ of the referendum campaign is undiminished.
Third, by these first two means, and any parliamentary tactic, to seek to reverse our course and remain within the EU.
The battle will initially focus on undermining and reversing the Prime Minister’s policy of leaving the EU Customs Union and Internal Market. She saw these as essential in honouring the referendum decision.
Remaining in the internal market would require retaining freedom of movement by all EU citizens to the UK; continued payments to the EU in perpetuity; and being subject to jurisdiction of the European Court.
Equally, retaining membership of the EU Customs Union means that our trade policy remains in the hands of Brussels, where priorities and preoccupations differ very significantly from our own. We would not resume our independent leadership in the World Trade Organisation, and our consumers would forgo the lower prices and greater prosperity that leaving the EU properly might have delivered.
Whilst the battle will rage about these two issues, the real objective is to just use them to bring about a prolonged delay, to bore and demoralise the British people, and ultimately to defeat them.
If you find all this profoundly depressing, then as an antidote I recommend going to the Cinema to see Darkest Hour.
It is magnificent.
I still wake every morning and my first thought is “we are going to be free!”