Parliament debates rescinding Article 50
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Parliament debates rescinding Article 50

November 24, 2019


Sir Roger Gale: (North Thanet) (Con):
Good afternoon, gentlemen. Daniel Zeichner to move the motion. Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab):
Thank you Sir Roger, it’s a pleasure to serve
under your chairmanship And I beg to move, That this House has considered e-petition
212174 relating to rescinding Article 50 if the Vote Leave campaign broke electoral laws
regarding the 2016 referendum . Sir Roger, this petition raises an issue that is
clearly timely, it’s lively, it’s of huge interest with almost 200,000 people having signed it
in under three months, including over a thousand from my own constituency of Cambridge.
And I rather thought it was likely that many hon. Members would
be wishing to contribute some of them possibly on the
subject of the petition, possibly on subjects related, possibly
to confirm pre-existing positions, and I have to I confess that I am no exception.
I also suspect there will be a few people wishing to intervene and, as Mr Speaker
would probably put it, “beetle away”. I entirely understand and I will be generous
with interventions. But to avoid being knocked off course completely, I
thought that I would set out the ground I intend to cover and Hon. Members may
judge for themselves where best their intervention might sit. May I say at the outset that the wording of
the petition is admirably succinct and to the point, perhaps unlike some of our proceedings?
But it says I suspect what many people would assume to be obvious. To paraphrase, it roughly says,
“If someone cheats, then the result is invalid and it doesn’t count.” Now, because I did not
like the result, I obviously agree entirely, but unfortunately for me and
for all of those who feel like me, it is sadly a bit more complicated than that. And it
is those issues that I wish to explore initially. I will suggest in passing that – sadly – cheating
in elections, or allegations of such, are not new and are not rare. I will explore the mechanisms
that we have to explore such charges, and the sanctions and punishments that may be
involved, and whether they are consistent across different types of
elections and votes. I will say a little about the particular circumstances
surrounding the 2016 referendum campaign. And I will then address the issue of article 50,
and the views about the potential options open to us. In passing, I will reflect on
the complicated issues of consent within a democracy and the extent to which some of
these judgments are legal issues, but some may ultimately be political. I shall conclude in a completely non-partisan
way by saying that, “Of course we were cheated, the whole thing has been a nonsense and we
should stay in the European Union,” which I suspect is what the vast majority of those
signing the petition feel. Now I do recognise, that there may be others in the room who feel differently. On a more serious note, I will try to offer a potential
way forward to address what has undeniably been a distinctly fraught couple of years
for our politics. But let me start at the beginning. Last
week, I had the pleasure of joining the Lord Mayor of the City of London at an event in
Cambridge. I was very struck by his opening comments. He said he is guided by three principles:
the first principle he is guided by, is the rule of law the second principle he is guided by, is the rule of law, and the third principle he is guided by, is the rule of law. Now given that he was addressing a group of lawyers,
that seemed like quite a smart opening. But it does strike me that in this place that
is something that we can probably all
agree on. We are here as lawmakers, and we respect the law even if we disagree with some
of it and seek to change it. But we do respect it. So the opening part of the petition, querying whether any laws have been broken, should be relatively simple. We have
a mechanism, established by Parliament to supervise electoral contests. The Electoral
Commission has conducted an extensive investigation and has concluded that
laws were indeed broken. Vote Leave funnelled nearly £700,000 to another campaign group,
BeLeave, and did not declare that the campaign groups were working together. Now the precise details of what happened remain
contested; others may wish to talk about that. And I do recognise that Vote Leave argue that the
investigations have been politically motivated. But the investigation has been done and
the conclusions are very clear and stark. Vote Leave was referred to the
police and those found guilty have been fined, the punishment that is available to the Electoral
Commission under the law. The Electoral Commission has commented that
that punishment is, in their view, insufficient. I agree, I suspect as do the 200,000 petitioners;
that is the force of the petition. But that is the law as it stands at the moment,
which makes the jump in the first sentence of the petition quite a leap: from if, the
law has been broken to, it nullifies the result. That may be what many of us would like the
law to be, but I am afraid that it is not the way it is in this case—or is it? A recurring
theme in this debate is that no-one is entirely sure And the legal debate, and there are going to be lawyers in this room who
are going to know far more than me, but one aspect of it begins with the status
of the referendum itself. According to the Supreme Court judgment made in December 2016, when the Government
was being challenged on the need for parliamentary approval to trigger article 50, it was judged
that the EU referendum was not legally binding but advisory, so logically it cannot be ordered
to be rerun by a court. This decision of whether or not to go back to the public after a referendum
that is not a legal judgement; it is a political one The decision lies with us. I will certainly give way
Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): I thank the Hon. Member for giving way and for speaking in this very important debate. And I speak as somebody whose constituency voted for remain; I myself
also voted for remain. But could he address this particular point? He has mentioned, rightly, that
the referendum in legal terms was advisory, not legally binding And therefore, the triggering of article 50, that therefore is, the triggering of article 50 is therefore a weaker nexus to the referendum, in and of itself, than had the referendum been legally binding. And so therefore does that not weaken the case for the referendum result to be overturned
or for article 50 to be rescinded, because in fact, Parliament is making an even more independent
judgment than would otherwise have been the case? Daniel Zeichner: I am grateful to the Hon. Member for his
intervention. As I rather thought, we almost immediately start getting pulled into the
legal arguments. The point he makes is a reasonable one, but of course there are arguments back
and forth, both ways, and many of these things, as so often, remain to be tested in court, so he might make that case. I think the point that I am making, and this will be a theme that I will return to throughout is that the law is for the lawyers,
but actually a lot of these ultimately are going to be be political judgments. Political judgements that need to be
in this place. So we could make a choice, as to whether on the basis of what we have seen happen in the referendum,
that we think it should be run again—or not. It is up to us to do so. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): On the points of the law does he agree with me that it is essential
that we have clarity on where the law stands, and particularly in relation to article 50 and whether it can be rescinded? And I am not sure whether he is aware of a legal case—the Wightman
case—going through the Scottish courts, which I am peripherally involved with.
Which is seeking to get a case to the Court of Justice of the European Union for them to rule, once
and for all, on whether article 50 can be rescinded, because we need that clarity in
terms of the other decisions that we have to take in this place. Daniel Zeichner: I thank the right hon
for his intervention and I very much agree; and I am actually coming to that a bit further. But it is a very important point and, of course, it would have been helpful perhaps for all
of us if the Government had pursued that option to make it clearer, so that we could all
make a sensible decision. But another theme of this is the lack of clarity
throughout and I suspect that that is not going to change in
the immediate future. Now I do not intend to re-rehearse the arguments
around the abuses that were alleged to have happened during the referendum campaign—in
fact, in some cases proven to have happened during the referendum campaign—so
others may wish to do so. I will just note a couple of pieces from the excellent work done by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in uncovering the extent of the wrongdoing committed by the Vote Leave campaign, which is of course is the subject of this petition. And I cannot help but quote one reflection from
their report in relation to one of the key players: They say that “Mr Cummings’ contemptuous behaviour is unprecedented in the history of this Committee’s inquiries and underlines concerns about the
difficulties of enforcing co-operation with Parliamentary scrutiny in the modern age.” Beyond highlighting the lack of respect shown
for the rules and procedures of this Parliament by Vote Leave, the Electoral Commission’s
legal counsel stated that: “Vote Leave has resisted our investigation
from the start, including contesting our right as the statutory regulator to open the investigation.
It has refused to cooperate, refused our requests to put forward a representative for interview,
and forced us to use our legal powers to compel it to provide evidence.” Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for giving way and could I congratulate him on his
opening speech in this debate which is excellent. and ask him would he agree with me that the impact of
social media in these questions of attending committees and the close scrutiny that we need to have, not just on ourselves as Members of Parliament, but on elections in general? That the social media element of this, because it is so new, is adding confusion and layers of fake news to all this, as well, which makes it even more difficult to get to the bottom of what the truth is. For your average citizen, or voter. Daniel Zeichner: I am grateful for my hon. Friend for her observation.
I do not think anyone would dispute the layers of complexity and difficulty, and the greater
difficulty presented by social media. For some of us who have been grappling with electoral
law over many years, it makes it a whole lot more difficult, and I suspect
we all know that we are going to need to update our procedures to try and cope with the challenges that they pose. Darren Jones (Bristol North West) (Lab):
I thank my Honourable friend for giving way on that point because for many of my constituents, this feels like
an obvious point. There has been a breach in the law and there should be a way in which that should be held to account through our legal system and so the fact that if it is a general, local election , European election, local referendum election it would be voided
in the High Court but not in this case seems nonsensical. And to
the point that my hon. Friend just made: clearly the rules therefore need updating. So would he support me and others in calling for an inquiry, not just to understand the
problems in this referendum, but to fix the rules for the future? Daniel Zeichner: Again grateful to my hon. friend and he is jumping ahead to my conclusions a little. Entirely correctly. What I am going to be showing over the next few minutes I hope are some of the inconsistencies and the need for us to update our rules and laws, and I am very much hoping that
the Minister will be listening closely. But I am going to take you back to the Digital, Culture, Media and
Sport Select Committee conclusion I think it was an extraordinarily strong statement, that frankly
should make anyone in any way associated with the Vote Leave campaign at least wince—frankly they should, more properly, be deeply ashamed. And I cannot help noting that the alleged point
of this entire Leave campaign was supposed to be bringing control back to this Parliament—a Parliament that they are now treating with contempt and disdain. The sheer hypocrisy, as well as the appalling
boorishness, they exhibited takes the breath away. How dare they wave the
Union Jack when they so disrespect basic British values? And millions and millions of people who
voted to leave will have been horrified by their behaviour. And as my hon. Friend the Member
for Streatham (Chuka Umunna) put it succinctly when asking his urgent question on this very matter
in July: “Who do these people think they are? They
think they are above the law.” However just because this particular instance is controversial, unpleasant, and stinks of arrogance and an obnoxious disregard for our politics and
our Parliament, and over an issue that is extremely emotional for many of us, as well as highly
significant for the country, I would say it is also important to remember that this is not the only occasion
on which our politics has fallen short. I have just made a pretty strong attack, so
I am going to try and lighten the mood for a moment. And in the interest of painting an accurate picture,
I fully acknowledge that claims that ballots have been rigged or that electorates have
been misled are hardly new or unusual. It was not just the notorious £350,000
on the side of the bus claim. [Interruption.] Million—sorry, not thousands. I have lost count of the number
of constituencies and by-elections I have turned up to, and frankly been puzzled and
amused by the information being offered to the electorate by one side or another.
Let me get my mea culpa in first. My party has made some interesting claims. I remember
“Vote Labour or the fox gets it” dominating one particular parliamentary by-election. I remember
Labour claiming that the Lib Dems were high on taxes and soft on drugs—was one
of my particular favourites, I think that was from Oldham and Saddleworth. And in another, possibly in Leicester, I remember being told that the contest was about Mr Strong
versus Mr Weak—neither of those candidates appeared on the ballot paper, as I recall.
Of course in general elections, the Conservatives have used the notorious double tax whammy and they
have asked us, “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?”. Of course, whenever the Liberal
Democrats are involved, it is always a two-horse race whatever the facts might say. Now whether you find any of these witty, or making a reasonable point in
a clever way or just downright misleading, none of these actually break the law.
Vote Leave did break the rules and they should be punished And they have been punished according to the law as it stands. But they also seriously misled the public. And I and many others feel furious about the false
promises that were made, but I would reluctantly concede that this motley collection of attempts
to at best divert, at worst mislead the electorate is, frankly, what electoral politics
has always been: an unlovely struggle to achieve sometimes noble ends through too often distinctly
tawdry means. But sometimes, and this picks up the point made by my hon friend, cheating does lead to
a rerun. In Oldham East and Saddleworth, a by-election was triggered in November 2010
after the sitting MP, elected just months before, was reported guilty of “knowingly
making false statements” about an opponent in the general election earlier in the year.
After various court proceedings and an appeal, he was reaffirmed as guilty and conceded defeat, and a by election was triggered.
I was very sorry, because he was a Labour colleague. Interestingly, the electorate chose
not to punish Labour at the ensuing by-election. And there are more recent examples. In South Thanet,
accusations of electoral fraud have been made that could have declared the election result
in 2015 void due to overspending. This trial has been delayed and is expected to happen
in October and I do not think it would be appropriate to say anything more
about it. But those who have signed the petition under consideration today may well ask: why are parliamentary election reports of wrongdoing treated so
differently and so much more robustly to those rules that apply to referenda? Well the answer,
as I have already hinted, is that electoral law is complicated, with different overlapping pieces
of legislation that makes it difficult even for those of us who have been struggling
to work out what it means, to understand it, over many years. The important point here is that electoral
law is different for national referendums. Now in the case of a parliamentary election, there
can be a challenge, as my hon friend has pointed out. They can be challenged for one of three reasons: if there had been administrative failings
that could have led to the wrong result; if a candidate is suspected of being disqualified
from being allowed to stand; or if there have been corrupt or illegal practices, which does include a candidate
spending over the limit. And although there are financial limits on national spending by political
parties and third-party campaigners during an election, there is no similar provision
for declaring a general election result void because of overspending on the national scale.
This makes the rules here both complex and varied for referenda and parliamentary elections. Sandy Martin (Ipswich) (Lab): Would my hon.
Friend agree that whether or not we have another referendum on our membership of the European Union, the probable involvement of the Russians indicates that democracy in this country is
at risk and that whatever action we take in this House, we should try to ensure that it
is motivated by our desire to defend democracy as well as the rule of law? Daniel Zeichner: I thank my
hon. Friend and near neighbour. And very much agree with him. There are so many aspects of this that could be
explored today, I suspect others will wish to choose to pursue some of them during the debate but I very much agree with him on his point But going back to the general proposition about how these issues should be dealt with, Some do look for guidance on referenda to the Venice Commission, to which the UK is a signatory. It includes the following in its guidelines for constitutional referenda: It says “National rules on both public and private
funding of political parties and election campaigns must be applicable to referendum
campaigns… As in the case of elections, funding must be transparent, particularly
when it comes to campaign accounts. In the event of a failure to abide by the statutory
requirements, for instance if the cap on spending is exceeded by a significant margin, the vote
must be annulled”. However, as colleagues may agree, some of
that, too, is open to interpretation. It does not give precise advice, and the key point,
I am afraid, is it is not legally binding on its signatories, although we have signed
up to the spirit of it and it really ought to guide us in that way, it would seem to me. But it does seem as if one clear conclusion and recommendation from this debate, it should be that the current rules are inconsistent, and certainly
not clear to the general public. The law on referenda should be strengthened and made
consistent, and I very much hope that the Minister will address this point in his contribution. But I would say there is a further issue that goes beyond
the strict application of the law. We do not have a written constitution. We do not have
a contract between citizens—or subjects, but that is a debate for another day; let
us call them electors—and those entrusted to make law and to govern. I would say we have a very
British understanding, and I would also say arguably it has probably served us pretty well. If a party
is elected on a manifesto which it then contradicts in government by U-turning on key flagship
policies, for instance, they can be reduced by the electorate from a party of government
to one struggling to make up double figures in its number of MPs, as we have seen in recent
times. It is also, I think, widely understood that we all respect
the outcomes of elections, however disappointed we might be in the result. I speak from some
experience here, having lost many more elections than I have won. But that respect, requires
that everyone has played broadly by the rules. And despite the examples I gave earlier, somewhat grudgingly, most of us I think accept that most of the time our system works. Now I am being quite generous here, as many of us, particularly on my side of political spectrum, do feel that the levels of
hostility from national newspapers owned by people with vested interests have over many
years made any contest far from fair, but I still persist in thinking that the removal van
outside Downing Street remains a powerful symbol of a democracy which still maintains
public trust and consent. But—this goes to the heart of the issue raised by the petition—if
that trust begins to be put in doubt, and significant numbers no longer feel the system
is operating sufficiently fairly, then our democracy is at risk. And what we do about that
is a political judgment, not a legal judgment. Tom Brake: I thank him for giving way,
and I apologise that I and possibly other Members will not be able to stay until
the end of this debate; because of course there is another debate about the European Union withdrawal agreement that is going to take place in the Chamber shortly. But I just wanted to ask him whether he thought that the idea of having an independent
arbiter to assess the statements that are made during election campaigns might be helpful. And also whether perhaps politicians of all parties should perhaps voluntarily sign up for instance to the understanding that if the UK Statistics Authority came down against a particular statement such as the £350 million for the NHS—
saying that is untrue – that that politician would never restate that position. Daniel Zeichner: I thank the hon. Gentleman
for making those points and I quite understand that there is another, more attractive option in terms of the other Chamber coming up soon, and I will be in no way offended if he leaves. But on his point about whether there can be an independent arbiter, I am slightly dubious about that. I think we are all sufficiently experienced, even in local contests, to know that that would be quite a difficult thing to set up and I would worry about it. We have all seen examples when all candidates are
given an equal space in a booklet, and we have perhaps noted that that is not necessarily
the bit that cuts through to the electorate in comparison with the reporting from other sources. So I think that this is a difficult area, and I would have some scepticism although on the checking of statistics there may be some value in exploring it. Catherine West: My hon. Friend is generous
in giving way a second time to myself. Would he agree with me however that there should be a recommendation that if there is a referendum and if the Government of the day says that it is going to implement whatever the people decide, that there should at least be a briefing in the Library of the House of Commons the day after so that those of who the
referendum goes one way or the other so that those of us who are rather surprised by the
result know what the Government intend to do after the referendum goes one way or the other? Daniel Zeichner: I thank my hon. Friend for
her suggestion. I am just remembering some bleary-eyed politicians in the middle of the night trying to recalibrate and wondering just how quickly such a briefing note could be
produced accurately. I suspect, and this is a theme really of what I have been saying is, I am not sure
one can design legal systems to cope with all these things. In the end, they are political judgments, and we live in a democracy with a fair amount of hurly-burly, a free press,
as it should be. But what we do not want is our elections and decisions being bought by money and external
states. And that is, that is I think the worry, and a difference from some of the problems that we have had in the past. So I would to make some progress Sir Roger and move on to the separate, but related question of article 50 and the ongoing debate as to whether it
is rescindable. Lord Kerr who of course is frequently quoted on this, who was responsible for drafting article 50 as secretary-general
to the European Convention in 2002-03 said last year that article 50 is revocable. And this interpretation was supported by Jean-Claude Piris, former legal counsel to the European Council. QCs Marie Demetriou, Jessica Simor and Tim Ward have written a joint legal opinion, which they have sent to the Prime
Minister, in which they too conclude that article 50 can be withdrawn before 29 March 2019 without
the need to seek the agreement of the other EU member states. And that if this happens the UK would retain its membership and privileges. The joint legal opinion notes
that the wording in article 50 refers to a decision to notify an intention to withdraw.
The QCs argue that an intention is not a binding commitment; it can be changed or withdrawn. So while legal arguments continue on this matter,
in political terms, it has also been stated by the French Government have they would welcome the UK to stay
in the EU on it’s current terms. And EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Council
President Donald Tusk have both said that Brexit is reversible. Well of course lots of people have
said lots of things over a period of time. I suspect it is when it comes down to it, the political will of law- makers that counts here. But that has been made very
clear, we are welcome to stay, should we wish to. Sir Roger I have been trying to present this petition in an
even-handed and fair way, even though everyone already knows where I am going with it.
June 2016 was not, I think, in many people’s view a great example of a mature democracy working
at its best. We know that in our system, referenda are used mainly by Prime Ministers who are
in a fix, generally trapped by divisions within their own party. This was most certainly the case
in 2016. Although I have to say I have not an ounce of sympathy for David Cameron, he must wonder every day
how it came to this. In 2016, the country was hideously divided on the issue, but a
decision was made. Two and a half years on, it looks as though we face another very difficult decision: to accept whatever deal can finally be arrived at, or not. But that is a different
question from that posed in 2016. I have argued this afternoon that the law
around referenda should be changed to make them consistent with other electoral processes. Almost 200,000 petitioners, and I suspect many, many more in the country, feel very strongly that the 2016 decision, close as it was, was sullied
by actions which have been proven by the Electoral Commission to be unlawful. It well may be Parliament’s
responsibility or fault that the law is inconsistent, but many of the public, many of the people we represent, feel that the law has not provided adequate recompense for wrongdoings, and that is the force of
this petition. That the law was broken is not in doubt, but alongside that, many believe
that the campaign was grossly misleading. What was offered by Vote Leave and other leave
campaigners, is not what is being delivered, and as with parties that renege on their manifestos,
the country will not forgive the political system and the politicians who allow this
to happen. The two strands—breaking spending limits
and misleading people—are separate issues, but for many, many people the two are inextricably linked. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames), the
grandson of Winston Churchill, told the House in the urgent question on this matter in July
that “one of the great glories of this sadly
now diminished country was our electoral and democratic system…I say that if we are
to retain the integrity and trust of the voting public, the whole damn thing needs
to be blown and started all over again.” Now the point is very well made. I believe that to maintain trust in our democracy, a political response is needed. And that political response is to
ensure that justice is done and that we have a people’s vote. The petition itself mentions article 10.3 of the
Lisbon treaty, and says: “Every citizen shall have the right to participate
in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as
possible to the citizen.” I do not want to leave the EU; I have been
explicit on that point. I truly believe that the economic, social and political damage
that leaving would do to our country—hitting the most vulnerable the hardest—could be
mitigated by remaining in and reforming the European Union. Tackling the underlying causes here at
home is the way to truly bring back control to the people, not to the bankrollers of election
campaigns, but while having this conversation about our future relationship with the European
Union, it is worth reflecting on that Article 10.3 “Decisions shall be taken as openly and
as closely as possible to the citizen.” This was not what happened in the EU referendum
campaign, with electoral rules being broken, a limited franchise which excluded those that it would most affect. A question allowed people to vote on what they did not want,
but then said nothing about what kind of relationship should be put in place. As many have
said, as we slam the door shouting “We’re leaving”, we are unable to answer the obvious
retort, “So where do you think you’re going to?”. To help our fractured society move back
towards those higher ideals of genuine informed participation in democratic life, it is right
to consider the experiences of the last two and a half years since the country went to
the polls, as well as the poll itself, to look at what was promised then and what
is being delivered now. It is right to wonder whether we can do better. People have the
right to know the price tag before they pay the bill. I am absolutely convinced we can
do better. We all know so much more now than we did back in 2016. My solution to the conundrum
raised by the 200,000 petitioners is simple. We have an opportunity, not to revisit 2016—not a rerun, despite the wrongdoing, but a new vote on the issue that lies
before us, a people’s vote, a genuine choice for the people to decide their future: on whether to take the deal, whatever is negotiated, or to reject
it and so stay in the European Union. The question is that this house’s concern ePetition 223729 relating to rescinding Article 50 if the Vote Leave campaign broke electoral laws Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): Sir Roger
a pleasure to see you in the Chair as always. I want to pay tribute to my honourable friend, my long-standing friend, the Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner), for a sterling introduction
to this petition. I am sure my colleagues will be pleased to know that I am going to be very brief with my contribution: because I think he said a lot of what I would have said. I also want to thank the 555 constituents of mine in east Bristol who have put their name to this petition. I was one of the 122 MPs, 57 of them Labour, who voted against triggering article 50 in February last year. And every day that goes by in my mind, vindicates that position that I was right to do so. The Government had no plan for Brexit
then and has no realistic Brexit plan now. And triggering article 50 when the Prime Minister did, began the countdown to the
biggest changes our country has faced in peacetime. It was an incredibly serious
decision and one that
should not have been taken lightly. Once the Prime Minister’s letter reached
President Tusk’s desk in Brussels, it strictly limited the time for negotiations to two years. And we know that that clock is ticking down, and it feels like it is ticking down ever faster by the moment. Even with a coherent Brexit plan in place, this would
be a challenging deadline to meet but the Government was totally and utterly unprepared.
It simply had not done it’s homework. And it was painfully obvious when Ministers came
before Select Committees, such as when the Environmental Audit Committee, on which I sit. conducted an inquiry into chemicals regulation
post-Brexit. When the Minister came in front of us, it became clear that they were only just starting to ask the chemicals industry what Brexit would mean for them. And this
was after article 50 had been triggered. The conversations that needed to be had with industry,
with important sectors and with the much derided experts had barely started, and so triggering
article 50 was reckless in the extreme. And the Prime Minister was not doing it because Brussels insisted we move to a trigger, or in an attempt to unite our divided country after the difficult
referendum campaign. She was doing it in a futile attempt to keep her warring Cabinet
together. We can all see now how well that has been going. There is little doubt, little serious doubt, that article 50 is revocable, although I know it was not envisaged when it was actually drafted. The European Council President, Donald Tusk, reiterated last year that no Brexit is still an option
for the UK Government, and the article, the author of article 50, Lord Kerr, has said that the UK can still
opt to stay in the EU. He said, “At any stage we can change our minds if we want to,
and if we did we know that our partners would actually be very pleased indeed.” Tom Brake: Would the hon. Lady agree with me that if
the Government want to be transparent and open about this, they should very clearly state whether in
their view article 50 is or is not revocable? As far as I am aware, the position they have
adopted so far is, “The question is not being posed, therefore we are not going to answer
it.” But actually, they should, and they should put it on the record. Kerry McCarthy: I absolutely agree with that. We are
discussing all the options available to us at the moment—from no deal to some of us advocating that we ought to think better and do all we can to try to stay
in the EU. Clearly, looking at the legalities around article 50 is in everyone’s interest
so that we know actually which options are still on the table and which ones are not. As I was about to say today’s debate is not really about the rights
and wrongs of triggering article 50, although that is something that the petitioners have put
forward as part of their call. It is about Vote Leave’s illegal activities during the
referendum. And though they have been held to account, a fine of £60,000 is absolutely pitiful. It is not a deterrent at all when so much was at stake during the referendum
campaign and when the people involved in the campaign are so wealthy and have access easily to the funds
needed to pay the fine. I support the Electoral Commission’s call
for greater fines to be levied on those who break the law in this way and the call for
a judge-led inquiry into the conduct of the referendum. My Right hon. Friend the Member
for Bristol North West (Darren Jones) called for. My right Hon. Friend for Exeter
(Mr Bradshaw) has led the way in investigating the Russian connections of Arron Banks’
Leave.EU campaign. And I was glad to be a signatory on a letter he organised to the Metropolitan police and the National Crime Agency urging them to investigate the links between Vote
Leave and Leave.EU. It has been reported that Arron Banks met
Russian officials multiple times—on one occasion it was reported that he had met them
11 times before the Brexit vote. There are reports now of an investigation by the National
Crime Agency. What we are seeing is the destruction of our democracy by foreign funding, by fake
news and by very wealthy individuals that are prepared to play fast and loose with our electoral
law and get away with it with impunity. I do not believe that this law breaking alone
is reason to rescind article 50, if the intention in calling for article 50 to be revoked is
to rerun the 2016 referendum campaign. Nor are the arguments put forward about a lack
of information, or indeed the deluge of misleading information when voters made their choice
in 2016, a valid reason to call for a rematch. Democracy is never perfect. We can never really
second-guess why people voted the way they did I would prefer not to turn the clock
back and talk about rerunning the 2016 referendum, but I do very much support the need to properly
scrutinise any deal that the Government comes forward, possibly with a people’s vote if
the Government does not come forward with a deal that is acceptable to Parliament. Some of us spent the campaign warning that
the Brexit process was much more complicated than some would have it. We have now gone from
being told that Brexit would be “the easiest deal in human history”, to the Prime Minister
saying, “it is not the end of the world” if we leave with no deal. The promises
have evaporated. I believe that, as I said, rather than turning the clock back and looking to scrap
article 50, yes we certainly need to hold to account the people who are responsible for illegal
actions during the referendum campaign. They should not be allowed to get away with this
with impunity, but the important thing now is to look at the deal—if it is possible
to scrutinise the deal, because it is such an absolute mess at the moment. But the important thing is to focus
on the here and now and to make sure that we either get the absolute best deal—a soft
Brexit for this country—or we think again, we extend or rescind article 50 and we go back to
the drawing board. Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (SNP):
Thank you. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today Sir Roger. I am also grateful for the Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) for opening today’s debate on behalf of the
Petitions Committee. With only 200 days until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, time
is clearly of the essence in regards to this issue. And I would commend him for being so generous with his time and taking
interventions today. I think we may have suffered from participants in today’s debate due to the competing EU debate which is about to begin in the main Chamber. However, the Members who have spoken
I think have covered just about every aspect that is salient to this issue today. I am also grateful for his comprehensive presentation; and there is much on which I would agree with him on. I am grateful particularly for him reminding us that the referendum was advisory and that it was not legally binding. However, much of the decisions before us will be about political judgment. Members have raised the point that adequate
legal advice on whether article 50 can be rescinded would be extremely useful, especially
in the relation to future decisions which will have to be made. And we will need to wait for
the decision of the inner house of the Court of Session in due course to see if it tells us that. We can be in no doubt that there have been
illegal activities by Vote Leave. The Electoral Commission has determined that the electoral
rules have been broken, and both Vote Leave and BeLeave have been fined and referred to
the police. I do not wish to pontificate about what may or may not happen with regard to
ongoing police investigations; that is for them to determine, and a due process will take
place. It is however enough to acknowledge that it is right that the matter has been referred
to the police and we must let that investigation take its due course. What I will comment on is how inadequate
the powers of the Electoral Commission appear to be in relation to this matter. If we are
to have confidence in the integrity, and outcome, of referendums and elections, it is essential that we have transparency in the process. It is particularly disappointing that Vote Leave had displayed an arrogant and unco-operative stance, forcing the Electoral Commission to use its legal
powers to compel it to provide evidence. It is bad enough that this attitude demonstrates that Vote Leave thought they were above the law, but that was compounded by the paltry level
of fines imposed, totalling £61,000 against a multi-million pound campaign, something which can be dismissed as the cost of doing business almost with impunity. Unlike with parliamentary constituencies, where results can be declared void as a result of overspending by successful candidates there is no such provision for overturning the result of the referendum; indeed the only provision for challenging the referendum result was by judicial review within six weeks of the result. Clearly unsatisfactory given
that it took almost 13 months before the Electoral Commission published its report into the lead Vote Leave campaign funding and spending, and that is no way a criticism of
the Electoral Commission. I would suggest for future that this period needs to be significantly longer in future referendums,
and could be further aided by a more transparent, real-time declaration of expenses and donations.
This is something that seriously needs consideration by Ministers for going forward. Vote Leave of course was not alone in being fined by
the Electoral Commission; Leave.EU was also fined, totalling £70,000 in May this year,
and offences were also referred to the police. Once again, highlighting the inadequacy of the range of fines available to the Electoral Commission. Indeed it would be fair to point out
that several participants on the remain side of the referendum have also been fined, but
in each case, significantly lower levels of potential fines were imposed and, more significantly, without any individuals
being referred to the police. All that which however does add to the perception that the existing electoral laws are simply not fit for purpose. There has been talk of “respecting the result
of the referendum”, to use the phrase in the Government’s response to the petitioners,
but what exactly does that mean? Take
Scotland for example—a nation which we were constantly assured was an equal partner in the union in the 2014 referendum where people voted overwhelmingly to
remain, by 62% to 38%. Yet Scotland is being dragged out of the EU against our wishes—the
peril of being part of an incorporating Union with a much larger partner. Now clearly that example
indicates that respecting the result of the referendum can be interpreted differently
by different members. So what about respecting the process of the referendum
to achieve a fair result? Surely that is more important. And if the result is not fair, should
that result be respected? Well I would argue that it should not and that there are many reasons that can be used to support this position—most
importantly being what happens in future contests. if campaigners can get away with cheating
the rules, there must be full transparency to hold any of those who seek to influence
and or undermine our democracy to account. Which brings me on to another dimension of this debate: that of dark money. BBC Spotlight Northern Ireland has revealed the former vice
chairman of the Conservative party in Scotland, now chair of the Constitutional Research Council,
Richard Cook, was behind the Democratic Unionist party’s £435,000 donation during the EU
referendum, and, to use their words has “a trail of involvement
in illegal activity and foreign money”. Donation rules in Northern Ireland mean that
details about donations made before July 2017 remain hidden. And it is worth noting in
response to the BBC, that the Electoral Commission continues to urge the UK Government to bring forward legislation enabling the publishing of information on donations from January 2014. We need a
full debate on the Scottish Conservative dark money as we have only seen the tip of the
dodgy donations iceberg. And the SNP have serious concerns round the issue of dark money handled by the Scottish Tories in the 2016 referendum. We have repeatedly called on the Scottish Conservatives and the Prime Minister to reveal the full details of the
transactions between the DUP and the Scottish Tory-linked CRC. They continue to refuse to
do so. Perhaps the Minister today will enlighten us Why is the original source of that dark
money being kept a secret. In conclusion, our electoral laws must not be treated as
an optional extra by campaigns. The £250 to £20,000 fines available to the Electoral
Commission simply are inadequate. Fines should be unlimited or, at the very least, proportionate to the spending ability of the party or campaign group involved. We have to ask ourselves what level of electoral rule-breaking should invalidate this or indeed any future referendum. And the answer to that question is not a simple matter. Given what we have heard, can we have confidence
that the outcome of the EU referendum was secure The issues of overspending, the issues of deliberate co-ordination
of expenditure, dark money, possible foreign interference fake news and potential misuse
of online data, all of which played a part in the EU referendum and all of which leave an unpalatable taste in the mouth, will lead many of the public to conclude that the referendum
was won by cheating. There is much which needs to be addressed to ensure public confidence in our democracy.
Pressing on regardless fails to ensure this. And surely now is the time to stop the process
of national self-harm and remain within the EU. What we should concentrate on instead is making our democratic systems fit for purpose in this modern digital age. Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab):
Sir Roger and it is a pleasure, as ever, to be able to wind up this debate for the Opposition with you in the Chair,
And I would like to commend my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) for the way he opened the debate. At a time when much of the debate in this place on this issue
lets us down, I thought he made a very balanced, informed and at times entertaining contribution,
so I am grateful to him for that. And I should acknowledge that 671 of my constituents signed the petition,
probably many of whom campaigned alongside me to remain in the European Union and I have been in correspondence with a number of them on this issue. And I really do I understand the anger and
frustration that they feel about cheating in this referendum—clearly anger and frustration that has been as they have watched the deepening chaos of this Government’s handling of the negotiations and the growing
risk of a disastrous no-deal Brexit. Something which of course, has been anticipated with some excitement by the extremists of the European Research Group, although I note actually, and I don’t know whether others
did, that the Secretary of State for International Trade this morning confessed in an article in The Times, that he, and I quote, cannot promise that life will be “rosy” after
Brexit—something of a contrast with the pledges that were made during the referendum. Now we should be clear, Labour backed remain, I campaigned relentlessly to stay in the European Union, but the majority did not agree. It was a close vote, a painfully close vote,
but it was a decision to leave. But the closeness of the vote indicates that it was
not a decision to rupture our relationship with the EU or to trash our economy. And if in July 2016, the Prime Minister had said that. If she had said “We recognise the country is divided, on the issue. We will leave, but remain close—in a customs union, close to the single market,
members of the agencies and programmes we have built together over 45 years,” she
would have had an overwhelming majority in this House, could have united the country so bitterly divided by David Cameron’s ill-conceived referendum, and could have avoided some of the anger and frustration which is behind this petition. But instead, she set red line after
red line—putting the interests of her warring party before the interests of the country, as my hon.
Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) pointed out in relation to article
50. And she was also right incidentally to highlight that the tragedy of the Prime Minister now setting something better than the end of the world as the benchmark for
her negotiations with the EU27. Now of course as other Members have said, as we speak there is a general debate just started in the Chamber on legislating for the withdrawal agreement, which in itself will unpick parts of the Bill which we spent a year debating in the House and now form the Withdrawal Act. But 27 months after the referendum, and one
month before the planned deadline for a deal—although that deadline is slipping—we are still no
closer to knowing whether there will be a withdrawal agreement or, if there is, what
will be in it. It did seem to mark that Chequers marked a change of policy from the Prime Minister—too little, too late, but at least a direction. Yet barely
a week later, the Government whipped intensively to defeat an amendment to the Trade Bill that
endorsed the Chequers plan and embraced amendments to the Customs Bill from the European Research Group which were designed to torpedo it. Sir Roger It is clear that Chequers has
no support in the House, in Brussels or even in the country. So we are faced with the most important negotiations this country has seen since the second world war are being led by the most dysfunctional
Government any of us can remember. Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD): Will the hon. Gentleman
give way? Paul Blomfield: I will. Wera Hobhouse: I am very grateful to the hon.
Gentleman for giving way— Sir Roger Gale (in the Chair): Order. Who
the hon. Gentleman who has the Floor gives way to is entirely up to him, and it is not
up to the Chair to seek to intervene in that process. But, as a general rule the Chair does deprecate the fact that some hon. Members choose to come into the Chamber at or near the end of a debate Wera Hobhouse: Thank you, Sir Roger for that. And I fully
accept your intervention. I really, really had another engagement that I could not get out of. But I do appreciate that he is giving way. Does he not agree with me that the main thing that has been so reckless is the premature triggering of article 50?
Which is why I very much welcome this motion that is in front of us. Paul Blomfield: I take your point, Sir Roger.
I think every aspect of the Government’s handling of these negotiations and the post-referendum
process has been reckless, so I do sympathise with the frustration felt by the petitioners. I want to turn very specifically to the subject of the petition. Now of course the serious findings by The Electoral Commission regarding Vote Leave have to be and are being fully investigated by the police. And both
those running the organisation and all those associated with it at its heart should co-operate fully
with the inquiry, in a way which my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge pointed out, was not the case during the Electoral Commission’s own investigation. And so I hope that when he comes to wind up for the government, the Minister will agree that sitting and former Government Ministers who worked with Vote Leave during the referendum campaign must co-operate
fully with the police investigation, and that their adherence to the ministerial code
during their time working with Vote Leave should also be the subject of a full investigation.
And I look forward to his comments on those points. Of course it is vitally important that the investigation is allowed to take its course, and that includes the possibility of criminal charges. Now at a time when trust in politics is low and with the very real threat that fake news and disinformation pose to our democracy—a number of members have made that point DIshonesty in our political system can’t be brushed aside. Now Article 50 has been triggered, beginning the
two-year process of our withdrawal And my Honourable Friend the Member for Cambridge spent some time talking about it. but I accept the view that legally it can be revoked. Recognising that there is discussion around the question. It could be revoked if there was a political consensus that it should be. However, we cannot revoke it on the basis of this petition. It is difficult
to know exactly what influenced voters. The hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk
(Martyn Day) said—I think if I quote him rightly that this election was won by cheating.
Clearly there was cheating, what is not clear is that the referendum was won by it. And we cannot be certain, and we cannot credibly say that overspending in the region of half
a million pounds definitely swung the result one way or the other. We do need tough sanctions on those who break
the law. And the Electoral Commission are right to seek much larger fines and much greater
retribution on those who bring our democratic system into disrepute, and we need criminal prosecutions as I say where appropriate. Now I understand why the petitioners would feel it is nonsense—again the
hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk made this point—that where cheating exists, the result should stand and the example of Oldham East and Saddleworth was quoted by my Honourable friend the Member for Cambridge, the Parliamentary election which was overturned. But my Honourable friend the Member for Cambridge also made the point that we have to be guided by the law. And while the law provides for
that option in relation to parliamentary elections, it does not provide for that option in relation to referenda. Now there is a case for a much wider inquiry, but as it stands at the moment the case for overturning the referendum on this basis is not made. Far from strengthening our democracy, disregarding
the vote simply on the basis of this issue risks further undermining trust in our political
system. That is why as an Opposition our focus now is in pressing the Government to reach out
to the majority in the country, not the minority in their party, to reach a deal in the
country’s interest. Now as an Opposition we have ruled nothing out, but our focus is on ensuring
that the divisions in the Conservative party do not lead us to crashing out of the European
Union without a deal in the autumn. But if that deal does not meet our six tests on co-operation, on the economy, on migration, on rights and protections, on national security and on the interests of the
regions and nations, we will vote it down. The Prime Minister has said she accepts those tests, but time is running out for her to meet them. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
for Exiting the European Union (Chris Heaton-Harris): Thank you Sir Roger and as ever it is a huge pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. Actually I think this is the first time I have been a Minister where you have been in the Chair. And I hope I do not somehow get the wrath that you enacted on my Liberal Democrat friend earlier and hold completely in order throughout
this debate. I’d like to thank the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel
Zeichner) for opening the debate on behalf of the Petitions Committee. He said in his own, I am going to quote him, he said he had opened it in an “even-handed” way— and actually he did, and I think he should be congratulated for that. I guess I could caveat it by saying relatively even-handed, but it
was a very good job well done, and I congratulate him for representing the views of the people that signed the petition. And I would also like to thank all those that participated in today’s debate. A decent number of people considering the competition in
the main Chamber of this place. Interventions from members from Hitchin
and Harpenden (Bim Afolami) Carshalton and Wallington
(Tom Brake)—although the Honourable gentleman has just gone. It is a shame he has gone because I was fascinated by his idea of an independent arbiter to stop incorrect statements. I thought it was odd for a Lib Dem politician to attempt
to silence his own party’s election machine, but so be it. The hon. Member for Bristol North West (Darren Jones) Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine
West). Actually the Honourable lady and I debated during the European referendum in a room not
too far away from here. And I would like to think, had she been here now, she would at least
agree with me that the debate we had was fairly well educated— certainly the people in the audience were, and were informing the debate very well indeed— and was very very balanced indeed. So there were good debates that happened during the referendum, and I am sure many Members here took part in them, participating on either side of the argument. Obviously I would like to thank the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry
McCarthy), and do I recognise her longstanding and very principled position on the matter, on this matter of leaving the European Union. And she is a passionate pro-European, and I respect her for that completely.
When I was a Member of the European Parliament, I debated with lots of people in a similar
position, and I never fell out with them once because I understand completely that they
have principled positions that they are sticking too. I just happened to disagree with that position. But I very much welcome what the Honourable lady said about wishing to get a good deal for the country and scrutinising that deal when it comes before this House. And I thank her for those words. The Honourable gentleman of the Opposition spokesman from Linlithgow and
East Falkirk (Martyn Day). I have to thank him for his contribution He made some interesting points, which actually were probably more for Cabinet Office Ministers than for the Parliamentary Under-Secretary
for the Department for leaving the European Union but I will pass them on because they are interesting points on the rules of referenda. Similar to points made by The hon. gentleman for Cambridge. So I will ensure they are passed on so when a debate is had on the rules of referenda in the future he can be assured that his points are being taken into account . And then I would also like to thank obviously the Opposition spokesman,
(Paul Blomfield) A gentleman I have known—alas,
slightly too long, really. And again I disagree with him on much of what he said, but I know
that it comes from a principled position. where he is passionate about this subject and I do respect him for it. But I do I welcome his comments
about how Chequers has moved the negotiations and this debate on. And it will be interesting to see where we get to as an Opposition party where his party gets to in its debate on these matters. I tend to think actually that the majority of his constituents and my constituents are actually in a slightly different place to us. Where no matter how they voted, that they just want this noisy debate to end and us to get on with the job of, the very detailed job of leaving the European Union in March next year. And there was a great deal of passion which was expressed by the Hon gentleman for Cambridge about how people felt about this referendum result. And I remember it distinctly because in many constituencies here possibly the hon. gentleman for Ipswich (Sandy Martin) might recall this in his own—but there was the “pencilgate” problems in the referendum where people
were worried about marking their cross with a pencil because they thought that the Government
might change how they were voting. So there was passion on both sides of this argument, and I think it would be foolish for us to ignore that passion. And I would also thank all those that have signed the petition. It was a good-sized petition, 200,000 people, including nearly 300 people in
my own seat of Daventry. And this petition calls for article 50 to be revoked if it is found that electoral laws were broken in the 2016 referendum. And it highlights
two issues: the conduct of the 2016 referendum, and the revocation of our notice to withdraw
from the European Union under article 50. I will deal with each in turn. Firstly, I emphasise that it is not acceptable
for any organisation to breach electoral procedures, and it is regrettable that fines have been
levied on multiple groups on both sides of the referendum campaign. Electoral law must be followed and it’s breaches must be decisively dealt with. And the Electoral Commission’s
use of its sanctioning powers show that it is doing this vital job. But it did happen on both sides, I guess. A number of pro-remain organisations have already
been fined by the Electoral Commission for breaking referendum law, including the Liberal
Democrats, Open Britain, Best for Our Future and a host of others. But I understand,
that is not the nature of this petition. This issue though is rightly and effectively being dealt with through our legal system. It is being scrutinised through ongoing legal processes,
even including legal challenges to the findings of the Electoral Commission. The police must
consider whether or not there has been any breach of criminal law. And there must be due process
and a fair hearing. And there is an important constitutional principle. That politicians do not interfere
with police investigations. That said, the Government will be considering
the wider implications of this issue, as well as recent reports on Government policy on
referenda and elections. We will carefully review the Electoral Commission’s report
on digital campaigning, the Information Commissioner’s recommendations on the use of data in politics and the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into fake news,
and take necessary action to strengthen further our democracy. However, there is no question of whether the UK Government will revoke it’s notification under article 50. It is clear, it is our clear policy that we will
not revoke article 50. The people of the United Kingdom gave a clear instruction, and the
Government is committed to seeing that through. We will leave the European Union on 29 March
next year. Parliament overwhelmingly voted to put the
question of the UK’s membership of the European Union to the British electorate. The simple
question that was put to members of the public on 23 June 2016 asked: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member
of the European Union or leave the European Union?” The result of the referendum was therefore
a clear answer to a clear question, giving a clear directive to Government to withdraw
from the European Union, which we respected through our notification under article 50. The result reflected not only campaigning
but considerable and prolonged debate, at national and parliamentary level, underpinned
by a commitment from all major parties, political parties to respect the outcome of the vote. Almost
three quarters of the electorate took part in the referendum, resulting in 17,410,742
people voting to leave the European Union and 16,141,241 voting to remain. This is the
highest number of votes cast for anything in UK electoral history. Parliament then overwhelmingly
confirmed the result of the referendum by voting with clear and convincing majorities in both of its Houses for
the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill Further still, at the last general election
over 80% of the public voted for parties committed to respecting the leave result. This Government respects the views and wishes
of the over than 198,000 people who signed this petition, but the instruction received
from the wider public and their elected Parliament is one that cannot be ignored. The Government
is clear that the British people have voted to leave the European Union and therefore
that is what we shall do. As the former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union noted earlier this year, “the electorate voted for a Government to
give them a referendum. Parliament voted to hold the referendum, the people voted in the
referendum, and we are now honouring the result of that referendum, as we said we would.” The Government has been, and continues to be,
committed to delivering on the instruction given to us by the British people, working
to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities that this brings to deliver an
outcome which betters the lives of British people—whether they voted to leave or to
remain. The British people must be able to trust in its Government both to effect their
will and to deliver the best outcome for them. As the Prime Minister has said: “This is about more than the decision to
leave the EU; it is about whether the people can trust their politicians to put in place
the decision they took.” In upholding the directive to withdraw from
the European Union, that is what this Government has done and will continue to do. We recognise
that to do otherwise would be to undermine the decision of the British people, and that
would be to disrespect the powerful democratic values of this country, and this Government and
this Parliament. This Government’s position remains clear: our notice under article 50
will not be withdrawn. Daniel Zeichner: On behalf of the Petitions
Committee can I thank all those Members who made contributions I think it has been a civilised debate. The Minister reflected that it was a decent turnout. I have to say I rather expected rather more. In fact I rather expected a rank of Vote Leave supporters on the other side coming to explain their actions and to defend
their actions. Now I quite understand why they are not here: because so much of their actions were indefensible. What a pity that they are not here to defend themselves. I suspect many of the petitioners
will actually be profoundly disappointed—not by the numbers who are here, but by the numbers, particularly on the Vote Leave side,
who are not. But the Minister cannot be held responsible
for everything that happens in life. So I would just reflect on his responses to one or two points. I was mildly encouraged that the Government is planning to look at the role of data, at strengthening the laws around referendums. I think that there are major lessons can be learned from all this. I was
slightly disappointed that he did not take the opportunity to endorse the suggestion
made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West (Darren Jones) that a judge-led inquiry
into what had gone on, might help us with that, but maybe that is for another day. In conclusion, Sir Roger, it was a strong statement from the Government again, that this will not be revisited, I just reflect gently on the very strong statements from the Prime Minister through the early months of 2017 that there was no chance there would be a general election. Maybe she should go for a walking holiday in Wales again and
come back and give the country what it needs to get us off the hook of this crisis and deliver a people’s vote. Sir Roger: Question is that this House has
considered e-petition 223729 relating to rescinding Article 50 if the Vote Leave campaign broke
electoral laws. Those who agree say Aye. Contrary No. Ayes have it. Order order.

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