The British Conservative peer Michael Heseltine is not a stranger to allowing his opinions and convictions be known. The last mentions of him involved his dog Kim, and, more recently, a cyclist in Northamptonshire. Now he is ready to defy Prime Minister Theresa May and fight to change her plan on triggering Article 50, leading to the UK leaving the European Union.

This week, peers debate Mrs May’s bill to launch Brexit negotiations with the EU. These discussions then move on to cross-party plans to force the Government to guarantee Parliament a meaningful vote on whatever the final deal the Prime Minister manages to secure with the other 27 countries.

Writing in The Mail On Sunday, Lord Heseltine said: ‘I have never known a future populated by such uncertainty but my preoccupation is to ensure that if public opinion changes then Parliament has the means to reflect that, whether by election, referendum or rethink.’ He added Labour, Lib Dem and rebellious Tory colleagues also want a change to the Brexit bill that will mean MPs and peers have ultimate authority over how the UK leaves.

The Conservative peer went on: ‘In the end the outcome of Brexit will have to be confirmed by Parliament. It will also have to pass in 27 national European parliaments, several sub-national parliaments and the European Parliament […] It was perhaps unwise for our Government to suppose that our Parliament should be excluded where all others were included. Very sensibly, after the Supreme Court interpreted the law, that position was reversed and Parliament was restored to its rightful constitutional role as the ultimate authority.’

Gina Miller, whose Supreme Court action forced PM May to give Parliament the vote on triggering Article 50, has called on the Lords to show ‘backbone’ in challenging her plan for Brexit.

Meanwhile, a Labour Lords source said the party ‘would be likely to win handsomely’ if the issue came to a vote, though ministers may seek to avoid testing the theory this week by promising to make concessions to delay it.

Back in November I had the chance to hear Lord Heseltine speak during a conference on Brexit at the Maritime Museum in the port city of Liverpool. He stated back then that there is a ‘toxic mix when living standards freeze’ and which led to the vote to Leave in June. He believes it is in ‘Britain’s self interest to be in Europe’ and that it has led to peace across the continent for many years. The 27 other EU nations have to be persuaded during negotiations and there are ‘hundreds of versions of Brexit that could be made’ leading to a ‘serious prolonged period of uncertainty ahead.’

He has argued that ‘rising inflation could see wages not keeping up with price rises’, whilst public opinion is also not static and ‘didn’t stop in June’ and could lead to a re-think in parliament. The elections coming up in France and Germany could also lead to changes in governments, possibly moving more to the right, reflecting the Brexit vote here and the victory of Donald Trump in the US.

Heseltine’s intent is understandable, as are the ambitions of other peers and the former PM Tony Blair. Brexit, as being offered by May’s government, is starting to look like a wish list penned by a Tory hardliner during a liquid lunch. There’s very little there to tempt Remainers.  Once the deal offered from the rest of the EU is known, Parliament should have a vote in the best interests of the country as a whole, and, if they vote against, the public should again be consulted.

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5 Comments on "Hezza is ready to defy PM May over Brexit"

  1. Michael Heseltine also said that not joining the euro would be a disaster for the UK and almost every year since he has insisted that we would end up joining. My favourite quote by him though was this little nugget in November 2011.

    “We have unleashed forces that nation states simply can not regulate. That is why we need not just political union within Europe — but, yes, ultimately, some kind of global governance. The Chinese know this; I know this. Believe me, it is the future.”

    Ultimately he is a very old man and it shows, at 83 were he a surgeon he would have been retired for 18 years, were he a judge 13 years. It is quite ironic though that a chamber that has more members over the age of 90 than under 40 is representing the final hope for hardcore remainers, a group who have routinely lambasted old people and in many cases called on them to lose their right to vote.

    I do find the constantly shifting position of the remain camp to be fairly amusing. When it seemed the referendum would be won easily they were all for direct democracy, after losing it was of course a terrible idea favoured by the Nazi’s, no more than a glorified opinion poll. Representative democracy became the best means of deciding these things, let MP’s decide, that’s how it should be. They did of course, and backed the bill to trigger article 50 by a thumping majority. So what now?, democracy, shemocracy, what is needed is an unelected chamber of Bishops, hereditory peers and political appointees to properly decide the fate of the nation. It shouldn’t surprise me I suppose, these people support the EU, where neither the President nor the Commissioners are elected.

    I hope the Lords do amend the bill and try to delay it. All my adult life I have wanted to see the House of Lords replaced by an elected upper chamber and with any luck this will annoy enough people on the right of politics for them to finally relent from supporting an archaic and fundamentally undemocratic institution.

    • Rob, I’d be careful about using age as a determinate when it comes to deciding the validity of an opinion, otherwise there might be an argument that all the old Brexiteers shouldn’t have as much say about the course of Brexit as the young who largely voted in favour of remaining.

      I agree that there’s some stubbornness being shown but what’s wrong with that? Leavers seem to think that Remainers should just shut up and accept Brexit, no matter the terms or how hard and painful.

      • “Rob, I’d be careful about using age as a determinate when it comes to deciding the validity of an opinion, otherwise there might be an argument that all the old Brexiteers shouldn’t have as much say about the course of Brexit as the young who largely voted in favour of remaining.”

        That has been doing the rounds for the last 8 months anyway David, which is the point I was making in the offending paragraph. Heseltine has far more than an opinion, he has a direct influence on legislation in this country which is very different from having the vote. But your probably right, I shouldn’t have been lazy and had a go at him that way.

        This has gone beyond Brexit for me David, Brexit is something that in a hundred years will be a footnote in this nations history. This is about an attack on democracy by people who won’t be happy unless they get what they want and if it takes a chamber with no mandate to deliver it then hip hip hooray. They just don’t realise the path down which they are treading they have become so fixated on the single issue. I never honestly thought I would see a large number of people genuinely saying that certain groups of people shouldn’t be allowed to vote but that has been common currency on CIF. Ignore the vote, have a second vote, that is the behaviour of banana republics, not surely our country. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, that’s democracy and that’s politics, when people stop accepting the results of elections, referendums etc and trying to play the system then the turkeys are voting for Christmas. Why bother having a vote on anything?

        • But if you follow the logic your argument through, aren’t you arguing for exactly what you’re accusing others of doing? That is, changing the system when the system doesn’t give you what you want.

  2. Not at all. If the upper chamber were elected they would still be able to amend and return and would have more legitimacy to do so, that’s a completely separate issue for me which is why I left it till last.

    I’m arguing for people to do what British people have done after every other referendum and election and accept the result. I don’t remember this behaviour in the immediate aftermath of any other vote. Just because you CAN try to frustrate a decision arrived at democratically doesn’t mean you should. You can’t have large numbers of people calling to ignore the results of votes they don’t like and hope to retain a democracy in the long term, especially if they then get what they have called for. If you believe any popular vote should be ignored, like Heseltine does, then I’m afraid you are not a democrat and I find it hard to see that you have a place within the working apparatus of a democracy.

    If people want the UK to be in the EU, vote for the LibDems in 2020 and they will take us back in with a mandate to do so and you won’t hear a complaint from me about it. It will be what people have voted for.

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