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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 8th May 2018.

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Photo of Lord Bilimoria Lord Bilimoria Crossbench 6:45 pm, 8th May 2018

We all know the noble Lord’s views on migration and immigration, so I will not even bother to go into that.

I go back to some senior Labour figures and supporters, including former shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna, who lashed out at his leadership, the TUC, Chris Leslie, the former shadow Chancellor, and Wes Streeting. Even John McDonnell says:

“Respect the referendum result but get the best deal you can to protect our economy and protect our jobs”.

Again, he explained that that meant being in a customs union and remaining,

“close to the single market”.

Why can the Labour Party not get behind this totally? I find it astonishing.

As the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, said, 80% of our economy is services—the EEA would address the services issue. Financial services account for 12% of Britain’s economy—we would have unfettered access, so all this passporting would be allowed—and 50% of our trade is with the European Union. There is all this talk of going global and agreeing free trade deals with other countries. I have said this before: try agreeing a free trade deal with the USA, or with India without talking about the movement of people. It is all about the movement of people and about tariffs and goods. The CETA with Canada took over seven years to bring about and does not include services. The European Union has said that it is not as easy to get the best free trade deal in the world as Liam Fox has claimed it is. What would Canada say about it? Moving on to equivalence, WTO rules are the worst possible option. I do not think the country would accept crashing out under WTO rules. The no deal option would not be acceptable to Parliament or to the people.

Perhaps the Minister can answer the nub of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Green. We have no control over our borders, yet a 2004 EU regulation allows all EU countries to repatriate EU nationals after three months if they show that they do not have the means to support themselves. Others countries, such as Belgium, repatriate thousands of people a year. We have never used this regulation, yet we say that we have no control over our borders. Why have we not used it? Why has no one spoken about this in the past?

In conclusion, the best option by far would be to remain. To quote the Financial Times:

“The EEA is not an ideal port for a ship seeking shelter from the worst of the upcoming Brexit storm, but … it may be the only port available … docking in this port is perhaps better for the UK than sailing straight into the storm just because it is exciting, insisting on a perfect port and nothing less, or maintaining that there is no impending storm at all”.

Today is VE Day and we are celebrating peace. There has been peace in the European Union for 70 years. I thank the European Union for that. It is not just down to NATO; the European Union has been responsible for that peace. A Spanish MEP, Esteban González Pons, recently made a very powerful speech in the European Parliament. He said that Europe’s past is war; its future is Brexit. He went on: “Brexit teaches us also that Europe is reversible, that one can go backwards in history … Brexit is the most selfish decision taken since Winston Churchill saved Europe with the blood, sweat and tears of the English. Brexit is the utter lack of solidarity when saying goodbye … Europe is peace after the disasters of war. Europe is forgiveness between the French and Germans … Europe is the fall of the Berlin Wall. Europe is the end of communism … Democracy is Europe. Our fundamental rights. Can we live without all of this? Can we give up all of this?” He went on: “I hope at the next Rome summit we talk less about what Europe owes us and we talk more about what we owe Europe after everything Europe has given us. The European Union is the only spring our continent has lived in its entire history”.

Europe is full of faults but I think it is the best option we have, and the role of this House is to challenge and to bring this up as the least bad option. I recommend the amendment to the House.