European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Second Reading (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:15 pm on 21st February 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes Conservative 8:15 pm, 21st February 2017

My Lords, I think that I am right in saying that I am the only Conservative still alive who voted against joining the EU in the first place. My Whip was a very young man by the name of Kenneth Clarke. I was probably the start of his campaign of dealing with difficult women and I can assure your Lordships’ House that I made it as difficult as possible and I voted against joining. I have never regretted that for one moment since.

It is not only the petty things, but goodness knows they have been annoying enough—loads and loads of regulations, ill-thought-up, imposed on British consumers without any recourse to deal with them or to change them, because every time negotiations started they stopped half way through because they were not getting anywhere.

I have not heard any noble Lord mention—I apologise if they have—that membership of the original Community that we joined has changed immensely. Members that we probably would never have thought of accepting are now firmly in the Community and are often causing a lot of heartburn and trouble, not only within those countries but for the Community in dealing or helping to deal with those problems.

I feel that this has been a fantastic opportunity that I never dreamed would come our way in my lifetime. I am deeply grateful that it has and that one has the opportunity, if that is what the country wants, at least to change our position and, I hope, our membership. I have the greatest admiration for our team that has negotiated so far. It has got ready quickly to start the difficult and important negotiations that will undoubtedly have to go on for some time. I wish it well.

On this occasion I would like, unusually, to mention another Member of your Lordships’ House, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. He was and still is a great admirer of Brexit. He was very much looking forward to speaking tonight but unfortunately has been taken ill and is unable to do so. I have spoken to him on the phone. He is doing well and his message is: “I am just delighted about Brexit. Please tell everybody from me”. On his behalf, it is a great pleasure to do so.

Finally, I will not detain the House, but I hope that when our team has completed these proceedings, those involved will be able to continue to negotiate as well as they have in the difficult circumstances that they have faced from the very beginning. If it happens and if all goes well, I will have a small tear in one eye at the thought that the day may dawn when I will see us leaving Europe.