Liz Truss attacks ‘blast from the past’ Peter Mandelson over Brexit

Posted On: 
19th February 2017

Liz Truss has accused Peter Mandelson of being a "blast from the past" after the Labour peer said the House of Lords would defeat the Government on key aspects of its Article 50 bill.

Justice Secretary Liz Truss
Credit: 
PA Images

The Justice Secretary urged the Upper Chamber to “recognise the will of the people” at the referendum and not obstruct Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The pro-Remain Cabinet minister also said she would support Brexit if there were a second referendum, and insisted that the triggering of Article 50 was “irrevocable”.

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Lord Mandelson this morning urged his fellow peers not to “throw in the towel early” as they prepare to consider the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.

He claimed that amendments regarding the rights of EU citizens to remain after Brexit and a “meaningful” vote in parliament on the final deal could receive enough cross-party support in the Lords to send the bill back to the Commons.

And the former Business minister defended Tony Blair’s call for Remainers to “rise up” against Brexit, saying voters did not back the type of withdrawal from the EU currently being pursued by ministers.

But Ms Truss, who was on the same side of the referendum campaign as Lord Mandelson, accused him and the former Labour prime minister of “fighting yesterday’s battle”.

“It was like the referendum had never happened. He seemed to be making the same argument that was being made last year in which the British people rejected,” she told the Andrew Marr show.

“So he needs to move and the Labour party need to move on, because we are now in a new reality. He’s a blast from the past, frankly, in terms of what he’s saying.”

'GET ON WITH IT'

Ms Truss three times refused to say whether the Government would take action if peers did obstruct the Article 50 bill’s passage through Parliament.

“The fact is it’s a simple bill on 'do we trigger Article 50?'. The British people have voted for that, they were clear in the referendum and the House of Lords needs to get on with it which is what I understand they will be doing, despite what Peter Mandelson claims,” she said.

She added: “As I’ve said, I fully expect the House of Lords will recognise the will of the people and the will of the House of Commons, which was overwhelming and passed that legislation.”

Speaking on the same programme, Lord Mandelson said: "If you look at what happened in the House of Commons, the Supreme Court said 'Parliament must decide' - the Government used their majority to bulldoze the legislation through Parliament, I hope they will not be so successful in the House of Lords.”

He also predicted that peers would defeat the Government on EU citizens’ rights and the vote on the final Brexit deal, but that ultimately the House of Commons would "prevail".

"I think it is [likely], I think there's a strong body of opinion across party and amongst the independent peers as well that both these issues are very serious. 

"At the end of the day, the House of Commons must prevail, because it is the elected chamber, but I hope the House of Lords will not throw in the towel early."

BACKING BREXIT

Ms Truss was also pressed as to whether the triggering of Article 50 could be reversed.

On the third time of asking, she replied: “My understanding is it’s irrevocable and when we press the button that will go forward. But regardless of that situation this is the settled will of the British people. And I think people who are trying to fight yesterday’s battle need to join us in making a success of global Britain.”

And she claimed she would back Brexit at a second referendum: "I would vote for out, absolutely, because it’s the settled will of the British people, we now are on an irrevocable path to leaving the European Union. We have a clear vision of what we want to achieve and times have changed.

“The point I’m making is that Peter Mandelson and others in the Labour party who are trying to frustrate the will of the British people need to think how they can contribute to making Britain a success post Brexit.

"Mandelson has lots of trade experience, why doesn’t he think about how he can help get those good trade deals rather than trying to re-fight a battle which he conclusively lost last year.”

BLAIR COMMENTS

Mr Blair on Friday claimed the “debilitation” of the Labour party had helped to “facilitate” Brexit.

The former Labour leader also called on fellow Remain voters to “rise up” and persuade Leave voters that Britain should remain in the European Union.

Lord Mandelson defended his close political ally for his intervention, saying: “The reason why Open Britain...asked Mr Blair to make this speech and the reason why we asked him to make it last week, before the Brexit legislation goes to the House of Lords for debate tomorrow and Tuesday, is because we firmly believe that when many people voted in the referendum had no idea of the terms on which the Government would decide to leave the EU.

“Now, that is the big change in circumstances and there are many people across the country, people who don't have an extreme view one way or another...they feel they are being bulldozed, they feel their voices are not being heard or expressed in Parliament."