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House of Lords could block full Brexit, admits David Davis

Published 13/09/2016

David Davis warned the House of Lords to fall into line and pass legislation needed to make the UK's exit happen
David Davis warned the House of Lords to fall into line and pass legislation needed to make the UK's exit happen

David Davis has admitted the House of Lords could act to scupper full Brexit, but warned peers they would be “unwise” to try and prevent Britain being stripped of its EU membership.

The Brexit Secretary accepted new legislation would be needed to ensure a clean break from the EU, repealing directives and cementing autonomy from the European Court.

He then demanded that opposition Peers who outnumber the Tories in the upper house fall into line and pass the needed laws, stating that the Government has the biggest mandate in British history to take the UK out of the EU.

The attack came as both Mr Davis and Downing Street dismissed a Lords report demanding Parliament also have a say in triggering Article 50, which launches formal Brexit talks.

The minister was giving evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee when he was asked whether some legislation was needed to make Brexit happen.

He said: “There has to be some legislation, there is no doubt about that. There are various stages, firstly there’ll have to be some legislation to deal with the European Communities Act 1972 and all the consequential legislation that follows on from that.

“There may well have to be parliamentary ratification under the relevant 2010 legislation, the so-called ‘crag’ legislation, and that’s the absolute minimum I can see.”

Asked whether that meant we could not leave the EU without Parliament’s support he said: “We can leave, but what the legislation does is put in place directives and various other pieces of law which will still  have effect if we didn’t [remove it].

“Whilst we would have taken a treaty change to remove ourselves, we would in that circumstance still be reporting back to the European Court in some respects.”

The Government is confident of passing relevant Brexit legislation through the Commons where it has a minority and the support of some Labour MPs.

But in the Lords where other peers outnumber the Tories, and some Conservatives have even indicated they are prepared to cause trouble, things could become more difficult.

The Commons can use the Parliament Act to ram legislation through the Lords regardless, but doing so risks legislation becoming redundant if ministers fail to leave enough parliamentary time for it in the session.

Mr Davis said: “The simple truth here is that what the Government is doing, is carrying out the biggest mandate that’s ever been given to a government by the British people.

“The largest number of people, nearly 17-and-a-half million people, with a majority of over one-and-a-quarter million I think. Had it been a general election between two parties called ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ the majority for leave would have been bigger than the majority Mr Blair had in 1997.

“So it’s a very, very, very clear mandate and I think the House of Lords would be quite unwise not to take that mandate seriously,” he added.

It comes after the House of Lords Constitution Committee said it would be “inappropriate” and “set a disturbing precedent” if the Government ploughed ahead with triggering Article 50 without explicit parliamentary approval.

A Downing Street spokesperson said, “we take a different view”, when asked about the report.

The spokesperson added: “The Government has set out clearly its position, which is - this is a decision for Government.”

Mr Davis said there was no need for a second referendum, an election or vote in Parliament before triggering Article 50 and denied that the result of the referendum was only advisory.

He added: “The is a matter for decision by the British people, the Government in its manifesto said it would respect the result of this referendum.”

Independent News Service

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