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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 8th May 2018.

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Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative 7:00 pm, 8th May 2018

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend, who supported my amendment both in Committee and on Report. I am very taken by what the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, said. This is not just a Labour tactic. I believe that there has been genuine cross-party consensus on choosing a few very precise issues. I will not rehearse the arguments again—they are there for your Lordships to see—but the noble Lord, Lord Alli, paid me the compliment of saying that he has used those arguments in crafting the amendment before us this evening.

We have had this discussion at Second Reading, in Committee and on Report. I believe that the time to bring this back is during the scrutiny of the trade Bill. The reason I say this is not that my arguments in favour of remaining within the EEA are any weaker, but if we send too many amendments back to the other place, where I served for 18 years, we will dilute its focus. I am putting all my confidence in the fact that there will be a majority in the elected House for our remaining in a customs arrangement or a customs union.

As I have argued previously—I have not had a definitive answer—lawyers are split on whether or not we need to formally leave the EEA and trigger an application to leave. I argue that without such a formal application to leave, the UK will remain a member of the EEA. I have worked closely over years with the food manufacturing industry and I continue to work closely with the farmers in North Yorkshire. I accept that the point on services has to be addressed. I understand that negotiations are going on to which we are not privy, and that is the difficulty in all the discussions on this amendment.

On the basis that I believe there will be a further opportunity to discuss this, and because I gave a commitment that I would wait until that time to discuss the EEA in a different context, and on my genuine understanding that we will remain members of the EEA, I urge the noble Lord not to put this amendment to the vote this evening but to keep it up our sleeve for a different occasion.