European Union Referendum Bill — Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:35 pm on 13th October 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Lamont of Lerwick Lord Lamont of Lerwick Conservative 12:35 pm, 13th October 2015

I do not believe that we should have a foreign policy determined by voting. Foreign policy should be intergovernmental. If we were outside the European Union I am sure that one of the things that we could easily co-operate with the European Union on would be foreign policy. The European Union would be extremely ill advised if it did not want us to co-operate with it on foreign policy.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rose, who, before he became leader of the yes campaign, said that he thought that it was a red herring, nonsense and ridiculous to imply that if Britain were outside the European Union we would lose inward investment or that firms would leave this country. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, did not think very much of the Swiss arrangement, but she must look at the results of that arrangement, whatever she thinks of it. Switzerland, though not a member of the EU, is more integrated with the European Union economy than we are. Its exports per capita are higher than those of this country. The proportion of its GDP that is traded with the EU is higher than that of this country. Contrary to what was said about not having access to the market, Swiss banks and insurance companies operate throughout Europe.

If a man from Mars came and looked at this country’s trade statistics, he would find it impossible to identify when we joined the European Union. In fact, the period when our trade increased most with Europe was immediately before we joined. But this is not about just economics but something more. On 7 October, in an ill-tempered exchange at the European Parliament with Mr Nigel Farage, who has his uses, President Hollande blurted out, “Do you really want to leave a common state? That is the question”. If he had said that a bit earlier some of us might have written to the Electoral Commission, suggesting that it ought to be on the ballot paper. He said, “Do you want to leave a common state and leave democracy?”. What an extraordinary thing to say. We do not want a common state at all. We want to insulate ourselves from increasing integration but we also have to look at the supremacy of EU law. If that cannot be tackled, we need to narrow down hugely the area to which community law applies. That will insulate us from the developments happening in Europe, which are going in a direction that many of us do not support.

I wish the Government well. They will need energy and determination. Once we have the results of that renegotiation, it will be for the British people to decide.