My Lords, I too would like to congratulate the Government in publishing their recent position papers; it is also good to hear from the Minister about the concrete progress made in negotiations on many items of substance, which is contrary to the impression given in certain quarters.
This of course is to be contrasted with the Opposition, which sadly often snipes unconvincingly and inconsistently from the side-lines. This is a shame in view of the huge importance of this subject. As many others have said, it is impossible in five minutes to do this subject justice, so I confine myself to a couple of remarks.
Firstly, as it was mentioned earlier, and as it illustrates the Opposition’s party-political opportunism in voting against it, I would like to touch briefly on the repeal Bill, which was debated yesterday in the House of Commons. As we know, it repeals the European Communities Act and repatriates sovereignty to the UK. It converts EU law into UK law and, in Section 7, about which much heat has been generated, it provides temporary powers to correct laws imported from the EU so that they may function appropriately. I understand the Section 7 power cannot be used to make policy changes; that must give some comfort to those who have criticised it so greatly.
Apparently there are as many as 20,000 EU regulations and statutory instruments resulting from EU law. I would like to ask, where were the strident voices we now hear about pernicious secondary legislation when this veritable forest of regulations and statutory instruments was being introduced into UK law? The noise now compared with the silence then seems a little inconsistent.
For the benefit of the noble Lords, Lord Taverne, Lord Dykes, and others, I would like to make a couple of comments about the stance of EU negotiators. In the published words of a Frankfurt-based German financier who, incidentally, is a senior finance officer in Mrs Merkel’s own party, he said:
“It is about as obvious to us Germans as it is to the Brits—the EU cannot tolerate the thought of a successful UK outside the Brussels sphere of influence because, if that were to happen, others might decide to start leaving the club too”.
It is this attitude on behalf of Messrs Barnier, Selmayr and others that threatens to put at risk the win-win outcome to the negotiations that, otherwise, by good will, might be achievable by the EU and the UK. But the divorce bill and the size of it is the number one issue for the EU negotiators, which may likely be colouring some of Monsieur Barnier’s wilder utterances. If it is €100 million, then it is no wonder we voted to leave.
I wish Her Majesty’s Government and the Minister as well as possible in their mammoth undertaking, which is so important for the future of this country. I add a few comments to comments made earlier, by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, and the noble Lords, Lord Taverne, Lord Dykes, and others. This is in relation to “Project Gloom”. Are they aware, for example, that Deutsche Bank recently signed a 25-year lease on a new London headquarters building and that the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund—which, incidentally, is the world’s largest—has just increased its target allocation of UK Government bonds? Reference was made to Lloyd’s by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, as if it were not the Lloyd’s corporate establishment of a few tens of—or even a hundred—people leaving for Brussels, but the thousands of brokers who work in that industry. They are not going off to Brussels; it is only the corporate staff who are doing so.
I have personal experience of this—and it is in the register—as I am a director of a marine insurance company based in Newcastle. We, along with many other financial services firms, have been required by the Prudential Regulation Authority to look at passporting options, should there not be a successful outcome from the negotiations. That is certainly something that many firms are having to look at, because they are required to do so by the PRA. It does not mean, as many people have suggested, that financial services are going to move wholesale from this country. We should forget “Project Gloom”. More of us should talk matters up rather than down.