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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (6th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 8th May 2018.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 3:30 pm, 8th May 2018

My Lords, I strongly support the amendment, partly to give our support to the Prime Minister against those within her divided Government who do not believe that it is important to stay closely associated with these agencies.

Perhaps I may give a little of their history. I was on the staff of Chatham House in the early 1980s when the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, first proposed the single market and made it clear that what was in Britain’s interests—as well as, she argued, in enlightened European interest—was to replace a tangle of different national regulations with single regulations in a single market. She did not assume that we would get rid of all these regulations but that we would agree on common regulations. Many of the agencies then grew up to make sure that these regulations were observed and enforced, and altered and developed as technology, pharmaceutical research and other things changed. That was why they were clearly in Britain’s interests. There were always some in the Conservative Party who did not believe in that—they believed in deregulation—and thus were dubious about the single market because it was replacing national regulations with common European regulations.

One of the most interesting pieces of research carried out for Chatham House in that period was by an American trade lawyer who wrote about the extraterritorial jurisdiction of US regulations over the United Kingdom until the single market was formed. Very often business, engineering, the chemical industry and the pharmaceutical industry in Britain simply followed American regulation. The idea that we had sovereign regulation on our own did not exist. As the single market developed, so European regulations, over which we had considerable influence, replaced the British adoption of regulations designed for American purposes, which we felt we had no choice but to accept.

That is these agencies’ historical origins and they clearly still serve British national interests. It is therefore important that if and when we leave the European Union we remain associated with them. Technology and research have continued to develop and these agencies therefore serve an increasingly important role. I therefore hope that the Minister in replying will reinforce what the Prime Minister said in her Mansion House speech and make it clear that a major objective of the Government is to remain as closely associated with these agencies as possible, even if Boris Johnson may then denounce it in the Daily Mail.