The Government’s former Brexit chief has threatened the House of Lords with the prospect of abolition it tries to delay Article 50.
Oliver Letwin said MPs should consider abolition or “full-scale reform” of the unelected upper chamber if it voted to delay the Brexit bill beyond the end of next month.
The MP and former minister, who was appointed by David Cameron to lead negotiation preparations in the wake of last June’s referendum result, asked the Leader of the House of Commons to make time for the debate.
“Would he find time in government time for a debate – should the other place seek to delay beyond the end of March, passage to our accession for Article 50 – for this House to discuss either the abolition or full-scale reform of the other place?” he asked at the Commons business statement on Thursday afternoon.
David Lidington, the Leader of the House of Commons, said he was hopeful that no debate would be required. “I am more optimistic than my right honourable friend. I think there is an awareness in the House of Lords that as an unelected chamber that there are conventions that apply to how they scrutinise and deal with legislation,” he replied.
“While I don’t want to take anything away from their proper constitutional role I think members of the House of Lords will be very cognisant both that this is the elected House and that we voted by a huge majority of the House last night in favour of the bill – and the fact that behind that vote lay the much bigger vote of the country, still.”
In a statement after the Commons passed the Article 50 bill last night, Brexit Secretary David Davis said the Lords should “do its job and to do its patriotic duty and actually give us the right to go on and negotiate that new relationship”.
Last night the BBC reported an anonymous Government source going further and saying: “If the Lords don't want to face an overwhelming public call to be abolished they must get on and protect democracy and pass this bill.”
MPs passed overwhelmingly the Article 50 Bill at its third reading – meaning it now progresses to the House of Lords for scrutiny. A number of peers, including former Labour MP Peter Hain, have said they will hold up the legislation.
What experts have said about Brexit
What experts have said about Brexit
1/11 Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
The Chancellor claims London can still be a world financial hub despite Brexit “One of Britain’s great strengths is the ability to offer and aggregate all of the services the global financial services industry needs” “This has not changed as a result of the EU referendum and I will do everything I can to ensure the City of London retains its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.”
2/11 Yanis Varoufakis
Greece's former finance minister compared the UK relations with the EU bloc with a well-known song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can't really leave. The proof is Theresa May has not even dared to trigger Article 50. It's like Harrison Ford going into Indiana Jones' castle and the path behind him fragmenting. You can get in, but getting out is not at all clear”
3/11 Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss says UK will be ‘screwed’ by EU in Brexit trade deals: “I have no faith in the politicians in London going on about how ‘the world will want to trade with us’. The world will want to screw you – that's what happens in trade talks,” he said. “They have no interest in giving the UK a deal on trade”
4/11 Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said claims that the UK would see serious economic consequences from a Brexit vote were "lurid" and wrong: “We were told it would be Armageddon from the OECD, from the IMF, David Cameron, the chancellor and President Obama who were predicting locusts in the fields and tidal waves in the North Sea"
5/11 Mark Carney
Governor of Bank of England is 'serene' about Bank of England's Brexit stance: “I am absolutely serene about the … judgments made both by the MPC and the FPC”
6/11 Christine Lagarde
IMF chief urges quick Brexit to reduce economic uncertainty: “We want to see clarity sooner rather than later because we think that a lack of clarity feeds uncertainty, which itself undermines investment appetites and decision making”
7/11 Inga Beale
Lloyd’s chief executive says Brexit is a major issue: "Clearly the UK's referendum on its EU membership is a major issue for us to deal with and we are now focusing our attention on having in place the plans that will ensure Lloyd's continues trading across Europe”
8/11 Colm Kelleher
President of US bank Morgan Stanley says City of London ‘will suffer’ as result of the EU referendum: “I do believe, and I said prior to the referendum, that the City of London will suffer as result of Brexit. The issue is how much”
9/11 Richard Branson
Virgin founder believes we've lost a THIRD of our value because of Brexit and cancelled a deal worth 3,000 jobs: We're not any worse than anybody else, but I suspect we've lost a third of our value which is dreadful for people in the workplace.' He continued: "We were about to do a very big deal, we cancelled that deal, that would have involved 3,000 jobs, and that’s happening all over the country"
10/11 Barack Obama
US President believes Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU: "It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. We are fully supportive of a process that is as little disruptive as possible so that people around the world can continue to benefit from economic growth"
11/11 Kristin Forbes
American economist and an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England argues that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result: “For now…the economy is experiencing some chop, but no tsunami. The adverse winds could quickly pick up – and merit a stronger policy response. But recently they have shifted to a more favourable direction”
Any delay to the legislation will likely disrupt its tight timetable and make it hard for Theresa May to fill her pledge of beginning EU negotiations by the end of March.