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My Lords, I refer you to my register of interests, which includes a pension from the European Parliament, although to balance up any unintended bias tonight I must indicate that I also receive a pension from the UK Parliament. I was originally going to concentrate my remarks on a limited analysis of a post-Brexit relationship in the ever-moving and developing field of regulation and legislation for future intelligence and criminal data sharing. I have been concerned for at least the last 10 years in that subject, but as the hour is late my views on that will have to await revelation on another day in another debate. Instead, I want to follow on from the noble Lord, Lord Soley, with whom I will be pleased to work to maintain positive relations with our European partners in the future. I wish to emphasise the urgent need tonight for more understanding in the Brexit process, understanding not only the principled views of all sides in the Brexit discussion here in the UK and in both our Houses, but understanding the views and positions of our European friends.
I have made many friends in Europe and I know how much they want us to remain closely linked, not only geographically but bonded by common ideals. My noble friend, Lord Hunt of Wirral, cited the remarks of the late Rab Butler, who talked about politics being “the art of the possible”. How true, but little is possible without a full appreciation and understanding of those with whom we must deal. This understanding must not only be of the views and positions of individuals or parties but of the institutions in Europe. I am amazed at the lack of knowledge in some quarters of the powers and influence of the European Parliament that I recently left, since the Lisbon treaty of 2009, and even of the European Commission, where a number of noble Lords and Baronesses have served over the years.
We will, of necessity, have to work together in future, with common causes and in resisting common threats, so we really need no unnecessary belligerence, no threats and no ultimatums. The Prime Minister herself has made it clear that in the Brexit negotiations we are looking for a positive relationship in the years ahead, but some of the rhetoric, referred to earlier by my noble friend Lord Lamont, does little to assist. Respecting the feelings of our neighbours and recognising their general desire to maintain close connections with us is vital, as is the need for us to understand and sympathise with their wish to continue and develop the community relationship between themselves when we leave. We have worked closely, often with the UK leading the way with our partners in Europe, for many years and we can point to many areas of co-operation and friendship. There is no doubt that we are going to be missed, but whatever the outcome of the present situation we owe it to ourselves and future generations to maintain that friendship and a constructive approach to European as well as wider world affairs.