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Queen’s Speech - Debate (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:22 pm on 23rd May 2016.

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Photo of Lord Dobbs Lord Dobbs Conservative 4:22 pm, 23rd May 2016

My Lords, what a beautiful farewell that was from my noble friend Lady Perry. It brought a tear to my eye, and of course we all wish her well. It is another treat to be the warm-up artist for the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell. I can only hope that this House will bring her, as it has so many of us, friendship and many years of enjoyment and fulfilment. It is a joy to be able to debate the humble Address in the year of Her Majesty’s 90th birthday. What a celebration. Sadly, there are some things that we cannot celebrate.

On both sides of this awful referendum campaign, the arguments so far have spanned the intellectual spectrum all the way from the absurd to the utterly irresponsible. Noble Lords may rest easy: this referendum is not a rerun of World War II, nor will it be the start of World War III. Yet something has gone terribly wrong. In the 25 years since the Berlin Wall came down, our world has turned sour. Europe has become weaker and more threatened. The bizarre outcome of this failure is that the two most effective voices in Europe today are those of President Putin and President Erdogan. Russia faces an appalling future economically and demographically, yet it runs rings around us. Do we really think that we will get the Crimea back, and what a diplomatic car crash we made, even yesterday, of our relations with Turkey, a loyal ally for so many decades?

Europe is not fit to be a single state and the people do not want it. Only the elites find it comfortable, which is why they are trotted out like the mad King Lear to threaten us with all sorts of terrors:

“What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be”.

I wonder how long it will be before that debilitating condition groupthink becomes a treatable condition under the National Health Service. Even the superstars of my own creative industries join in: “Our culture will crumble”. On a clear day, from the red carpet it is almost possible to see as far as the waiting limousine.

I had high hopes for a reformed European Union. I thought that the Prime Minister’s Bloomberg speech was simply wonderful. He said:

“The biggest danger to the European Union comes not from those who advocate change, but from those who denounce new thinking as heresy”.

They listened to him politely. Then they washed their hands.

We need to ask ourselves what will happen on 23 June if we vote to stay in. Will President Juncker say, “Brilliant. Glad you’re staying. We hear your message and we will be more tolerant and flexible now”, or those who regard ever-closer union as their religion decide that their hour has come. Why, even the British Prime Minister has said that there is no alternative, so full steam ahead. The delayed Budget will be published and it will have grown. The EU will continue to underperform economically. The refugee crisis will continue, as will the political ambitions of the European court. Mr Putin will continue to ignore us and Greece will continue to be devastated—and there will be another crisis, because we all know that the euro in its present form is incoherent and unsustainable. The status quo is not stability; it is nothing but poorly supervised decline.

What will happen if we leave? We are told that on day one there will be a great crash and that everything will fail, but even if on day one the speculators cause a wobble of uncertainty, let me tell you what will happen on day two, week two, month two and year two. The world will recover its senses and recognise that Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy with a wonderfully adaptable and flexible labour force, superb universities, financial skills and all the rest. Our voice will be listened to afresh. What we lose from leaving the EU we can recreate through co-operation. What we gain we will share. We will have control of our laws and our courts. We will have back control of our borders and we can spend our taxes as we decide. We will still be good neighbours, great partners and perhaps even better friends. Britain will not be at the back of the queue; we will be leading the charge.

Can we do all this? Of course we can. The Prime Minister himself said so at Bloomberg. What a wonderful speech that was. He said:

“Of course Britain could make her own way in the world, outside the EU, if we chose to do so”.

Those are stirring words and I believed them. It is a quotation ripped not out of context but perhaps out of the history books in an attempt to prevent anyone remembering it.

I offer one final quotation from George Bernard Shaw:

“'You see things; you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’”.

I prefer the dreams of Shaw to the madness of Lear or Project Fear. That is why I will be supporting leave.