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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:43 am on 31st January 2018.

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Photo of Lord Spicer Lord Spicer Conservative 11:43 am, 31st January 2018

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher. I remember well partnering her late husband in tennis in West Virginia when we played against the American Senate. He was, certainly in private, a very charming man. I also agree with her about the dangers of Russia, but I am not going to talk about that now.

It is clear from this debate that your Lordships’ House is not exactly rabidly Eurosceptic. I am, though, and perhaps I owe the House some explanation of that. I start with what has become the customary homage to the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds. He is of course right that economics is not the only matter affecting this debate, although it is not completely unimportant or irrelevant. When you are dealing with a protectionist trade bloc, which the European Union is, it is bound to have ultimately a negative effect on your trade and economy. There is certainly a read-across there.

Much more important, and the reason why I think we should get out of the European Union, is democracy. The European Union is undemocratic for two reasons. It does not have a mechanism for true democracy, which requires a direct relationship between the electorate and the Government. The electorate chooses a party, preferably in private, and votes it in. There is such a connection between the electorate and the Government that the electors, having elected their Government, are willing to pay allegiance to them. There is a synergy about the whole thing. In Europe, the matter is aggravated by the fact that the laws are made on the whole by the European court, which is undemocratic and relies on the acquis communautaire for its inspiration. The acquis is quite clear that it requires the court to make judgments in one direction, towards a federal state of Europe, that is irreversible.

Some people say that this process can be reformed. In the foreseeable future at least, that is highly unlikely. Take, for example, Britain. If we were to go back into the European Union, it is absolutely unimaginable that the court would not insist that sterling would be joined to the single currency, and quite rightly so. You cannot have a single market for ever without a single currency. That would be the loss of Britain’s freedom, which is involved in the sovereignty of Parliament and in no one Parliament binding another. That would just go. The trend in that case would be anti-democratic so far as this country is concerned.

I would like to refer to a speech made yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Winston. It is something that has troubled me quite a lot about the attack that is made on people who think, like I do, that the nation state is the best unit of democracy. I will read one paragraph from it. He said that,

Andrea Sella talks about a maternal ancestor. He is not Jewish but his ancestor was. Apparently she called him early in the morning when the result of the referendum became clear. She said, her voice choking with emotion:

‘How can these people forget so soon where nationalism leads you?’”—[Official Report, 30/1/18; col. 1521.]

The innuendo is clear. I could turn the whole thing on its head and say that World War II, for instance, was brought to a halt and peace was established by the nation state against the pan-European movement led by Germany. That absolutely turns on its head an argument that is constantly used against people such as myself and Eurosceptics, and quite wrongly so.