Outcome of the European Union Referendum - Motion to Take Note (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:53 pm on 6th July 2016.

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Photo of Lord Sterling of Plaistow Lord Sterling of Plaistow Conservative 5:53 pm, 6th July 2016

My Lords, tonight Wales is playing, and we all hope it will win. But if by chance it loses, I take it we will not be asking for a replay.

We left Aquitaine and Calais some 500 years ago and since that time we have been the power broker between Germany and France, and France and Germany, in order to protect the empire. We had no ambitions in continental Europe itself. It is interesting that we keep using the word “leave”. I do not think that we are leaving. There have been only 41 years out of more than 500 when we have not been involved in the continent. If we had not regrouped and taken our troops from Dunkirk in 1940, where would the continent of Europe be today? In practice, it was the regrouping—fighting on alone, right the way through, with Churchill’s determination—that allowed us to fight again and, with our allies, to regain Europe’s freedom. That was the base of what Britain was about. We went back and helped continental Europe.

In talking about Chilcot, we have also talked about our military forces. As some noble Lords will be aware, I am very involved in that area. It is vital now, if we are not to be considered a bunch of little Englanders, to ensure not only that the armed services are maintained but—as I have strongly recommended, as did Sir Christopher Meyer to the Foreign Affairs Committee the other day—that the budget is increased to 3% of GDP, not 2%, so that they can do their job globally. We unquestionably need more frigates, as the admiral has often said, if we are to maintain our place in the world. The armed services must have the right kit for unknown eventualities, as no one can have any idea today what might happen in the future.

On top of that, our finest soft power has always been the foreign service. There have been cuts to the foreign service but, if anything, its budget should be doubled so that it can do the job that it needs to do globally.

I switch now to a subject that I know a wee bit about—the car industry, which the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has often talked about as well. Forty years ago we started Motability, which is by far the biggest fleet of its type in the world. We have 12%, and sometimes 15%, of the whole market. We have had discussions with the manufacturers of Mercedes and VWs as well as with others and the idea that they will allow their businesses to be destroyed by the Commission’s eventual decision is absolutely ridiculous. These companies have no interest whatever other than continuing the business that they do with us. As has been pointed out before, the ratio of their imports into this country is close to three to one. There is now a division between what is happening in Brussels and the politicians who have to run their own countries, such as those in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and so forth.

We are talking about creating wealth. I have heard a lot about what might happen next week, what we might do and how we might do it, and how we will exercise Article 50. We are looking 100 years ahead, not just at the immediate future. When we lay down the keel of a ship, we are taking a view on the next 30 or 40 years. We must consider the long-term future of this country.

I return to the armed services. The one thing that is sure is that our armed services will be a key part of the most powerful hard power within Europe today, except even more so. If Europe gets into trouble, the Europeans know that we will come to help them like we did in 1940. That is our job, and the armed services know their role in fulfilling that responsibility.

Returning to international trade, I had the honour, as many noble Lords may be aware, of running P&O for 25 years. For 180 years it has been doing huge international trade. How many noble Lords have looked recently, when doing the washing, at the label on the back of their shirt collar and saw where it was made? Was it China, or Taiwan, or India? Nearly everything you can think of is not necessarily sourced in Europe itself. This morning, I checked with many of the container groups to ask what is coming into this country, from all the different parts of the world, and what they think the effects will be. They are not troubled. What they are concerned about is more bureaucracy as against how simple it is to bring goods in today. However, that will be sorted out in time.

I was thinking the other day that if the euro had not been created in 2003, we would not be having this debate. The straitjacket of the euro has caused a huge number of the problems that we are considering today. Subsequently there has been a massive economic migration—not just of refugees—running into the tens of millions. All countries will have to address that aspect of the issue.

Many noble Lords have talked about aspects of racial hatred that have come out recently. I think it worth reading, very quickly, Dominic Lawson’s comment on it—last week it was in the Sunday Times, but it was also in the Independent some years ago:

“In September 1958 nine young men were found guilty”— in the court of Mr Justice Cyril Salmon, who happened to be his cousin—

“of what they had called ‘nigger hunting’–chasing black citizens around the streets of Notting Hill, while armed with iron bars and table legs. They were, said their defence lawyer, in attempted mitigation of their crimes, ‘victims of the society in which they live’”.

As it was recorded, Lord Justice Salmon “was unimpressed”. He said:

“Everyone, irrespective of the colour of their skins, is entitled to walk through our streets in peace with their heads erect and free from fear ... As far as the law is concerned you are entitled to think what you like, however foul your thoughts; to feel what you like, however brutal and debased your emotions; to say what you like, provided you do not infringe the rights of others or imperil the Queen’s Peace. But once you translate your dark thoughts and brutal feelings into savage acts such as these, the law will be swift to punish you, and to protect your victims”.

Lord Justice Salmon,

“sentenced all nine youths to four years’ imprisonment. Shocked at the severity of the sentence, relatives and friends in the courtroom gasped in dismay, and burst into hysterical sobs outside. Two of the boys were so shaken they had to be helped down the 32 steps to their cells. But that night, all was quiet in Notting Hill”.