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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:20 pm on 21st February 2017.

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Photo of Lord Hoyle Lord Hoyle Labour 8:20 pm, 21st February 2017

My Lords, it has been a very interesting and informative debate. In fact, I welcome to the House people who I have not known before who have joined in the debate. I hope they will come back and join in other debates in the future—I should certainly welcome that.

Looking at the issue, I see that it would be totally wrong for this, an unelected House, to try to overturn what the British people and the elected House have decided. We must accept the decision. Nearly all the speeches in this Chamber have mentioned how dependent we are on the European market. I will say one or two things about how the European market benefits from the UK market as well. For instance, there is a £50 billion surplus on trade between Europe and ourselves—that is not something to be thrown away lightly. Also, we are one of the biggest importers of German cars; at one time, it was running at some 30%. Germany has a £25 billion surplus in relation to trade with this country. I then go on to Italy. I think all of us enjoy Italian wine and goods, and it has a £3.45 billion trading surplus with us. No one enjoys French wine more than those of us here, and France has a £5.2 billion trade surplus with us. I put it before noble Lords that when we go into the negotiations, we should bear in mind that they also have quite a lot to lose in relation to the British market.

I move on to Gibraltar, which has been mentioned by several people on this side. We must not forget the people of Gibraltar when we are negotiating, either now or in the future when we are dealing with trade. Gibraltar must be included because, in 2002, 98% of people there voted to remain with the UK, and in 2016, 96% voted to remain in the EU. Gibraltar is a haven for financial services, and they do extremely well there. However, more than 90% of that trade is with us. Again, when we are looking at the issues, we must not forget the service Gibraltar has given us. All these issues are important as we go forward.

Several speeches have been made decrying what the British people have decided. I remind noble Lords to consider that although some of the British people were not well informed and did not know, you must always trust the electorate and the people of this country. You may not like what they do—many times, as a politician, I have certainly not liked the Government they have returned—but they take that decision. It is wrong for this unelected House then to discuss overturning what has been decided.

What will happen in the future? I remind noble Lords what was said when we went into this referendum. I agree that the arguments made by the Prime Minister were not the best. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, that the arguments he has made today are far more important than the economic arguments. The First World War and the Second World War were caused by disputes between European countries, but the fact of Europe coming together means it is unthinkable today that that would happen. I give that to the EU.

However, I say that there is a bright future for this country in going forward and deciding where we want to go on our own, not forgetting that we have responsibilities to countries such as Gibraltar, which have shown that they want to stay with us. I think we can secure agreements not only with Europe but with the rest of the world as well. We are still a very important trading nation, but I come back to where I started: the British people have decided and we should respect the decision that they made.

I hope there is no longer any talk of an unelected House trying to overturn the decision of the British people and the decision of the elected House. It is not for this House to do that. By all means let us be constructive in what we say and the way we look at the issue, but our future lies in the direction that we have been told by the electorate in this country. We should go forward and look not with pessimism but with optimism at the future that we can generate for the people of this country.