Watching and listening to the second reading debate of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill in the House of Lords over the past couple of days was like intruding on private grief. For the most part, their Lordships were engaged a in wake, and those of us who campaigned for Leave in the referendum last year were not welcome.
There were, thankfully, a few speeches from Peers who were in favour of Brexit, and Lord Farmer, a Conservative Peer, said that he had noticed ‘how frequently Members on all Benches disclosed their own reactions to the outcome of last June’s referendum. To bring some balance, I will mention my own reaction. Frankly, I was chuffed that the people of this country wrested back the ability, in the words of our Prime Minister already quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, “to hold their governments to account”.’
Chuffed was how I felt on the morning of 24 June. Just as dawn was starting to break, I arrived home from the local count in Beverley where voters in the Beverley and Holderness constituency had voted decisively to leave the EU. At the moment the BBC called the referendum result for Leave, I had my five day old son in my arms. I couldn’t cheer or jump up and down – I was trying to get him to sleep. But I did feel chuffed; chuffed that all the travelling around the country and all the time spent arguing for Brexit had paid off. I was also hopeful and cheerful for the future.
And cheerful is how Viscount Ridley feels. I urge you to read his speech in full, but here is a section from it:
“Being a rational optimist, let me take just a few minutes of your Lordships’ time—less than six, I promise—to strike a note of hope. You might call it “project cheer”. I will start with why I, for one, am surer now than I was on 24 June that the British people have done the right thing. Voting to leave the EU last June has had precisely the opposite effect to what project fear told us would happen. Instead of an emergency Budget and an immediate and profound shock to the economy, a loss of confidence, a drying up of inward investment and a collapse in the stock market—all of which were promised if we voted leave—we have seen an acceleration of growth, now the fastest in the G7. There have been record highs on the stock market, votes of confidence from Apple, Google, Siemens, Nissan, Snapchat, McDonalds, IBM and many other companies. There has been a manufacturing revival, a narrowing of the trade deficit as exports pick up, thanks to a welcome devaluation of the pound, and the humiliation of economic forecasters at the IMF, the Bank of England, the Treasury, the European Commission and elsewhere.”
But will his fellow Peers feel more cheerful during the committee stage of the Bill next week? Time will tell.