Lord Steel calls for second referendum on Europe

Lord David Steel.
Lord David Steel.

Former Borders MP David Steel made an impassioned speech to the House of Lords on Tuesday evening, arguing the case for a second referendum on Brexit.

In the debate on Europe, Lord Steel said: “I was first elected to parliament in 1965.

“I cannot recall a time of greater chaos in government than we see today. I do not blame the Prime Minister who has been trying her best – indeed I feel rather sorry for her, though I do find her reiteration of the phrase ‘national interest’ rather grating as she appears to conflate it with her own.

“Most sane people regard the prospect of crashing out of the EU without a deal as devastatingly damaging, which leaves us with this defective deal where we remain substantially under EU rules at great expense but without any say over its policies as we shall have left.

“That does not seem to me an attractive proposition.

“Until recently I considered a second referendum to be a forlorn hope. But it now seems to me to have gathered support – not just because of the march in London, nor the growing number of voices for it, but for another reason so far not mentioned.”

He reminded the house of how the German president laid a wreath at the cenotaph earlier this month, and said that he had recently travelled to Plattling, Selkirk’s twin town, where a Bavarian minister pleaded with him not to pursue Brexit.

He added: “Yes, the EU is not perfect. Yes, it needs to be less bureaucratic and more accountable. Yes, we made a bad deal on fisheries when we joined.

“But these are all matters we should stay to sort out and which we cannot alter if we just walk away.

“That is why I now believe a second referendum is necessary.”