My Lords, we must organise, not agonise—this is not the time for your Lordships’ House to agonise but to organise a smooth journey for the Bill to allow the Government to invoke Article 50. Speculation is not legislation. The reality is that until the Bill is passed into law, all that has happened since the Brexit vote remains uneasy speculation. The Bill must become law in order to implement the people’s referendum result and respect the judgment of the Supreme Court.
Brexit is a process, not an event. The passing of the Bill is an essential part of this process. We are privileged to be engaged in the most important season in British history since World War II. But as the Prime Minister, Theresa May, said on
“We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe”.
For example, after Brexit we will remain an influential permanent member of the UN Security Council, the second-largest contributor to NATO after America, and a leading member of the G7, the G20 and the Commonwealth. However, we are now seeking partnerships no longer dictated by Europe. This is the opportunity to become a truly global Great Britain.
My wife, who is here today, is American and between us we have at least seven nationalities in our family. Lady Taylor is Swedish, Cherokee and Texan. My side is Caribbean, Irish, Indian and, of course, Birmingham. Recently Lady Taylor and I were guests of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington DC at a dinner addressed by the Vice-President, Michael Pence. There was also an invitation to President Trump’s National Prayer Breakfast. At this landmark event, the only people allowed were the President of the United States of America and me—and about 2,000 other guests. I had the privilege to be interviewed by Fox News and other American media. It was striking from these experiences that as a result of the referendum our biggest single trading partner—America—clearly now sees Britain very much at the front of the trading queue. The Americans and other huge trading partners such as China and India are watching very closely to see whether we seize the opportunity that Brexit gives us. This is not the time to delay or draw back.
For your Lordships’ House not to pass the Bill would be missing an amazing open goal. Being a long-suffering supporter of Aston Villa, missing open goals is an activity I am used to watching. In fact, there was a rumour that Aston Villa would be applying for a European trademark on missing open goals. But unlike in football, we cannot rely on extra time or a replay. In order to win for global Britain we have to stride forward and score the greater goal now.
The prizes ahead for winning are clear. They include, first and foremost, control of our own laws, with the end of the European Court of Justice overruling British courts. Brexit will strengthen the union between the four nations of this United Kingdom by returning power to Westminster and the devolved Administrations. We will be able to control immigration to attract the brightest and the best to work or study here. There will be a free trade agreement with the European Union. We will no longer be shackled by the EU’s single market or burdened with paying huge sums to the EU budget. Britain will become a truly global trading nation, making trade agreements around the world, including with the 52 nations of the Commonwealth, free from the constraints of EU customs union membership. The result will be not only a stronger Great Britain but a stronger Europe and a stronger world.
I am from a diverse racial background and I greatly admire the contrasting cultures and languages within the European Union, but the EU has 24 official languages: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish. Then there are the classified, semi-official languages, including Basque and Catalan. Let us not forget the main immigrant languages, including Russian, Berber, Turkish and Kurdish. Each language brings with it a different identity and understanding. I am a great supporter of diversity, but the EU has become a bureaucratic tower of Babel where complexity and confusion increasingly frustrate co-operation. Compare this with the 52 nations of the Commonwealth family who possess the spirit of Great Britain. They are one-third of the world’s population. The Commonwealth nations share an immensely rich and enduring history and culture, with English as a common language, and the same sovereign—Her Majesty the Queen. The timing of this Bill is excellent, since Britain is due to host the next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting—CHOGM—in 2018.
This Bill is not a leap into the dark. When fear knocks at our door, we must answer it with faith. In doing so, we have the assurance of Proverbs 16:9 that people make their plans but God directs our steps. It was Sir Winston Churchill who said:
“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it”.
Brexit has for ever rewritten British history. Now, through this Bill, we can make Great Britain an even greater Britain.