'Time and time again I have been involved... in opposing by every constitutional means... the mandate of Government'
This was the speech Lord Heseltine made in the House of Lords that explained why he voted against the Government and why he was sacked .
The Swansea-born peer politely savaged the Cabinet Brexit-leading-trio of David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox.
And he articulated a clear justification for giving Parliament full authority to vote on whatever deal the Governmnent strikes with Brussels.
He described Brexit as “the most momentous peacetime decision of our time”.
And he went on to vote against the Government to back the demand for a parliamentary vote on the final deal to be written into Brexit legislation.
The amendment, penned by top QC Lord Pannick, would require the explicit approval of Parliament before Mrs May could conclude any deal on leaving the EU or establishing a new relationship.
My Lords, many of your Lordships have made the point that we are not here to refight the referendum campaign; there is a clear mandate to trigger Article 50.
My own personal position has been clearly established since I first joined the Conservative Party in 1951.
I believe, and always have, that Britain’s national self-interest is inextricably interwoven with those of our European partners. I deeply regret the outcome of the referendum.
That said, within three days of that outcome, I publicly made three points. First, I urged the Government to get on with the disengagement process, not only because they had a clear mandate to do so but because I thought that delay would only add uncertainty to the damage that the result itself had produced.
Secondly, I urged the Government to appoint Brexiteers to the three Cabinet positions that would front the negotiations.
It was clear to me then that failure to do so would open the door to the allegation that if only “the right people” had been put in positions to lead the charge, a much better deal would have been done.
I also took the view, perhaps naively, that as campaigners for Brexit, it was not unreasonable to assume that they might have answers to the numerous questions that we faced.
Your Lordships will be aware that both of these events have now taken place and I am very pleased to say how fully I support the Prime Minister in what she has done.
That leaves only my third point—the most controversial of the three. I said then that the fightback starts here.
Like so many of your Lordships, I enjoyed the privilege of many years in another place — in my case, 35 years.
I learned the limitations of government in a parliamentary democracy and I learned the role of opposition in such circumstances.
Time and again I have been involved, along with many of your Lordships on these Benches, in opposing by every constitutional means in our power the mandate of the elected Government.
Not only did we oppose their mandate from the very first day that Parliament met, we began the long process of repealing the Acts of which we disapproved.
In the end, it came down to a belief in the ultimate sovereignty of Parliament.
I must make it clear that, in accepting the mandate to negotiate our withdrawal from the European Union, I do not accept that the mandate runs for all time and in all circumstances— 48% of our people rejected that concept last year.
They have the same right to be heard as I hope so many of us recognised in those long years of opposition in another place.
We now face a protracted period of negotiation. No one has the first idea what will emerge.
No one can even tell us what Governments in Europe will be there to conclude whatever deal emerges.
No one can say with certainty how British public opinion will react to totally unpredictable events.
To give just one example, I am told that it took 240 regulations to introduce the single market in the late 1980s.
I remember the resentment that caused, particularly to small and medium-sized companies.
I understand that it may take 1,600 regulations to unravel more than 40 years of closer union — and no one can say how the vital small and medium-sized sector of our economy will react to the circumstances that they will then face.
Everyone in this House knows that we now face the most momentous peacetime decision of our time.
This amendment, as the noble Lord so clearly set out, secures in law the Government’s commitment, already made to another place, to ensure that Parliament is the ultimate custodian of our national sovereignty.
It ensures that Parliament has the critical role in determining the future that we will bequeath to generations of young people. I urge your Lordships to support the amendment.
The Prime Minister may not conclude an agreement with the European Union under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, on the terms of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, without the approval of both Houses of Parliament.
Such approval shall be required before the European Parliament debates and votes on that agreement.
The prior approval of both Houses of Parliament shall also be required in relation to an agreement on the future relationship of the United Kingdom with the European Union.
The prior approval of both Houses of Parliament shall also be required in relation to any decision by the Prime Minister that the United Kingdom shall leave the European Union without an agreement as to the applicable terms.