Lord Owen speaks out on constitutional issues involved in Yvette Cooper’s European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

Video of Lord Owen speaking in the House of Lords debate on Yvette Cooper’s European Union (Withdrawal) (No 5) Bill today (Thursday 04April 2019) and raising various constitutional issues: HouseOfLords 04–04-19

Read the text here: HoL 04.04.19 text

In a major interview with The Guardian, Lord Owen discusses The Independent Group, the Labour Party and Brexit.

Read Lord Owen’s interview here: Guardianarticle21.3.19

Lord Owen recommends: ‘Brexit is about sovereignty and Parliament must respect that’.

Lord Owen recommends a recent article in the UK’s Financial Times commenting “it is one of the best articles on the Brexit debate.” Brexit is about sovereignty and parliament must respect that | Financial Times

Lord Owen speaks in the House of Lords about establishing a UK-wide Constitutional Convention.

Lord Owen’s speech on 13 December 2018 in the Debate on the current constitutional challenges within the UK and the case for the establishment of a UK-wide Constitutional Convention to address issues of democratic accountability and devolution, particularly in England.

View the speech here: Constitutional Challenges

Read the text here: HL13.12.18



On the eve of the Commons Debate on the Withdrawal Agreement, Lord Owen writes to all MPs suggesting an exit strategy that avoids a no deal.

Original of Lord Owen’s LetterLettertoallMPs

The letter is supplemented by an Explanatory Note which can be viewed hereExplanatory note


“Last week in the Sunday TimesTheresa May wrote a letter to the country and Tony Blair wrote to the EU.

Your votes on 11 December are your choice and yours alone. This is about what the Government and the UK should do if the House of Commons decides not to endorse the Withdrawal Agreement [WA].

You know well that after losing a major vote the House will expect a considered response from the Government. It will be vital that world financial markets know immediately how the UK intends to act. It will be damaging to wait even to early next day. That the Government should allow speculators and currency markets to dictate a repeat vote on the WA in the weeks following is disreputable and dangerous.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that the EU will not renegotiate the WA. Everyone in the EU says exactly the same. Nick Boles and it appears Michael Gove advocate you should first vote for the Withdrawal Agreement and then negotiate ‘Norway Plus’ to apply after 31 December 2020.

This proposal is different. It only concerns the situation if the Withdrawal Agreement has been rejected and is about continuing as a member of the EEA after 20 March 2019. This allows an independent fisheries policy to start immediately and ensures that we have, if we judge the time to be correct, a clear legal exit procedure in which the EU has no involvement.

The WA having been rejected the UK must seize the initiative and stop being a supplicant under Article 50 while paying strictly determined exit costs. We can thereby avert the other outcome of leaving without a deal in less than four months. It offers clarity and certainty.

Suggested Prime Minister’s Statement immediately after the WA vote is lost.

“As a consequence of tonight’s votes I am sending letters immediately to all other 31 parties to the European Economic Area Agreement [EEAA]: the EU itself, its 27 member states and the 3 Efta states.

“The letters will state our intention to continue in the European Economic Area as a non-EU member from n the end of March 2018. We intend to do this because we signed the EEA Agreement as the UK in 1992 and we have not as the UK given the twelve months notice in writing required to withdraw from the Agreement.

If Efta or the EU countries challenge our entitlement then we will take our case to arbitration under international law using the Permanent Court of Arbitration [PCA] which was endorsed by all EU members in the Withdrawal Agreement. I am writing to the Secretary-General of the PCA.

I hope this action will unite many different viewpoints in Parliament, it has the merit of being very simple:

We, like the three other non-EU members of the EEA, would not be starting out as part of the EU Customs Union, though we could pursue this. We could pursue our own EU-UK FTA on the lines of Canada +++ as President Tusk at one time proposed and we will immediately start with other FTA negotiations. There is no necessity for us to join Efta. We would not be fixing any time limit as to how long we stay in EEA. Like the other three non-EU countries, we would continue to be bound, as are all Parties to the EEAA, to give one year’s notice of leaving. We would not ask anything more form the EU than we are entitled to under the EEAA.

That will be a good achievement. Norway has significant rule influence for a country its size. The 3 non-EU states have achieved numerous rule-derogations and amendments. Liechtenstein even has strict immigration controls. The ECJ does not hold sway, and there are no mandatory contributions to the EU budget (only to an EEA-Efta programme to reduce economic and social disparities, likely to be around £1.5 billion per year).

We would also be in a position to agree with the EU before 29 March 2019 many issues on which genuine agreements were made during the negotiations over the WA and where appropriate we would be willing to pay for these.

Continuing in the EEA Agreement as a non-EU member requires no more than minor consequential legislative changes similar to those needed by Austria, Finland and Sweden in the opposite direction on leaving Efta to join the EU in 1995. Article 126, for instance, was not amended until 2004. In Ireland the border would become an EEA/EU land border like Norway/Sweden, but with no infrastructure rather than partial infrastructure.

Meanwhile we will urgently improve our transport links with the continent and keep in place the legislation to leave the EU on 29 March, already agreed by both Houses of Parliament though if we stay in the EEA we would have to adjust he EU Withdrawal Act 2018 a little.”

David Owen

The letter is supplemented by an Explanatory Note which can be viewed hereExplanatorynote

Introduction to the topic of Hubris Syndrome:

In 2011 Lord Owen was instrumental in establishing a charitable trust, the Daedalus Trust ( with the aim of promoting research into personality changes associated with the exercise of power amongst leaders in all walks of life. The name for the Trust was chosen because of Daedalus’s combination of risk taking tempered by wisdom. The Trust aims to raise awareness of this important leadership and governance issue and to support research that studies both the positive and the negative consequences of behavioral risk management while giving precedence to neither. It has held a number of workshops and annual conferences and published books. For more information on the Trust please go to its website:

In 2017 it was decided to embed the Trust in an academic setting and merge with the Maudsley Philosophy Group (MPG) to enable a much younger grouping to become involved in the work of the Trust and for the organization to sit within a broader umbrella group encompassing mainly psychiatrists but also psychologists and neuroscientists. With its link to King’s College it was also hoped the MPG would find it easier to attract grants for research work. Lord Owen stood down as Chairman but one or two of the Trustees provide continuity with the work of the MPG.

The origins of the Trust can be traced back to 2002 when Lord Owen gave a lecture to the Annual Meeting of the Association of British Neurologists and the British Neuropsychiatry Association on “The effect of serious illness on Heads of State or Government”.  This was later published as an Occasional Paper in the QJM (Q J Med 2003; 96:325-336) entitled “Diseased, demented, depressed: serious illness in Heads of State.  In February 2005, as Chancellor of Liverpool University, Lord Owen delivered the Lord Henry Cohen History of Medicine Lecture on “The effect of Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s illness on his decision-making during the Suez Crisis”. This too was subsequently published as an Occasional Paper in the QJM (Q J Med 2005 98(6): 387-402). Lord Owen as a neurologist and then a politician has always had a keen interest in the inter-relationship of politics and medicine. He began studying and writing more about illness in heads of government, not only physical and depressive illness but what he perceived as a change in personality as a result of holding high office, or what Bertrand Russell called ‘intoxication of power’ and which Lord Owen has labeled ‘hubris syndrome’.

In November 2006 an article on “Hubris and Nemesis in Heads of Government” was published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (J R Soc Med 2006, 99:548-551). A small paperback called Hubris Syndrome was published in 2007 followed by a much longer book In Sickness and In Power in 2008 which has since been updated and republished in 2016.   Lord Owen has given lectures to the Royal Society of Medicine, the Royal College of Physicians, the Maudsley Grand Round, the Royal College of Psychiatrists Annual Meeting and the Association of British Neurologists covering different aspects from these two books, the texts of which are all available in this section of the website.  An article based on the Samuel Gee Lecture given to the Royal College of Physicians was published in Clinical Medicine in August 2008. A Personal View column “Let us see the medical records of future world leaders” also appeared in the BMJ in November 2008 (BMJ2008;337:a2486).  In 2009 Lord Owen co-authored a paper for BRAIN on “Hubris syndrome: An acquired personality disorder?  A study of US Presidents and UK Prime Ministers over the last 100 years”.

The table in this article outlines the proposed criteria for Hubris Syndrome and their correspondence to features of Cluster B personality disorders in DSM-IV.

An independent assessment of Lord Owen’s description of hubris syndrome was written by Professor Gerald Russell, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry in The Psychiatrist in 2011.  ThePsychiatrist

In conclusion Professor Russell wrote “Owen has made important contributions to the psychiatry of politicians and others in positions of power, which should be warmly welcomed. The description of the hubris syndrome may require further refinement before entry into the recognised psychiatric classifications.”

In Sickness and In Power has been published in the UK, America, the Netherlands, Greece, Russia, Spain, Portugal and a number of other countries. It has been widely and well reviewed.

It is clear from this high level of activity, and the numerous other medical and literary meetings that have been addressed by Lord Owen that both books have aroused considerable interest, not only in political circles but more specifically in the medical profession. It looks as if the debate on hubris syndrome will continue for some time to come.

More articles and interviews by Lord Owen addressing the subject of hubris syndrome can be found in the following section of the website.  Earlier copies of lectures can be requested by contacting Lord Owen’s office.

Lord Owen argues for the very costly Health and Social Care Act 2012 to be urgently revoked and the vocational, ethical and moral foundations of the 1948 legislation restored.

Keynote speech to a conference on ‘Brexit and the NHS’ held by the UK in a Changing Europe initiative at the Wellcome Centre, 14 March 2018. Full text here: Brexit&NHSspeech

“I am genuinely puzzled why the main NHS charities that dominate discussion on the NHS – the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust – continue to champion [the] external market? They have become not charities in the true sense of the term to serve those in need; but partisans fighting for a political view of the NHS held by a managerial class and MPs which poll after poll shows is not supported by public opinion.

“At last the Labour Party is changing its position and they know that reverting to the principles of the 1948 Act will be much easier outside the EU legislative framework than inside.”

We are on the threshold of another war in the Middle East involving Lebanon and the surrounding countries. It is imperative that Russia and the US start a process to help stabilise the region.

Lord Owen’s speech to the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, delivered Thursday 16 November 2017.

Download the full text hereLordOwenMoscowSpeech

In the speech, Lord Owen argues “We are on the threshold of another war in the Middle East involving Lebanon and the surrounding countries. It is imperative that Russia and the US start a process to help stabilise the region using the P5 +1 mechanism with others – a mechanism that has worked in the past over Iran.”

Lord Owen will say “Russia will, in my view, only play the constructive role that it could in its new position, with a military airfield close to Lebanon, if we in the other four nations in 5+1 – Germany, France, US and the UK – offer to enter into a constructive dialogue in the area, above all, which is of immediate concern for Russia, namely east Ukraine and Crimea. A readiness to establish formal 5+1 negotiations for the settlement of not only these boundary disputes but also involving those near Moldova, namely Transnistria. Also Georgia, Nagorno Karabakh and even perhaps Kosovo, could be a way of unblocking the present stand off in negotiating directly with Ukraine and sets the dialogue in terms of other boundary changes.”

“Patiently, persuasively and persistently in the P5+1 on Eastern Europe and on the Middle East, deals can be made that, balanced across these two separate regions, could help to rebuild the relationship between Russia and the US and involve Iran in the context of Russian help in stabilising the Middle East.”

“We need Presidents Putin and Trump to authorise this process and the sooner the better and start to develop a measure of regard for each other’s domestic arrangements. They will not repair all the strains and stresses quickly, but a civilized dialogue can and must be restored.”