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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 8th May 2018.

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Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Chair, Economic Affairs Committee 6:30 pm, 8th May 2018

So, from having a three-line whip, and arguing for the importance of the European Economic Area, we now have a “Don’t know” position on the Front Bench. And the noble Lord, Lord Alli, has the cheek to say that the Government are confused about their position; just as the Opposition have been confused about a customs union or the customs union. The truth of the matter is that a number of noble Lords wish to reverse the decision of the British people.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, asked me to comment on the position in the referendum campaign. I campaigned in the referendum campaign and went to a number of public meetings. I heard the argument being made that, if we were to join the EEA and be out of the European Union, we would have “fax diplomacy”. We would have no say in the regulations and that was the worst of all worlds. I now find that the people who were advancing that argument are now pretending that it is in the interests of the country: it certainly is not.

The noble Lord, Lord Alli, asked: “What are we getting for our money?”. As my noble friend has pointed out repeatedly, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. There will be no money paid if we do not have a negotiation which is in the interests of the United Kingdom. By suggesting that that money will be paid, and that the Government cannot get a good negotiation, he is undermining the position of his country, and of the Government, in vital negotiations which, as speeches on all sides have pointed out, are of great importance to the economy as a whole.