We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 8th May 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 7:15 pm, 8th May 2018

My Lords, this has been an informative, interesting and passionate debate on a key element of our future relationship with the EU. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, I think that it is entirely appropriate for us to discuss this here and in the context of the Bill.

It has long been the judgment of the Official Opposition that the Prime Minister made a grave mistake at the very opening of negotiations in sweeping certain options completely off the table. Her red lines, which closed down the possible positive and constructive development of a new partnership with the EU, were irresponsible, short-sighted and aimed more at her hard Brexiteers than at the interests of every part of the UK. Whether one is thinking about Ireland, Scotland, the regions, Welsh farming, manufacturing, the City, aerospace, automobiles or any other sector of the economy, those options were off the table before we had even had the impact statements.

It is not the way that we would have opened discussions on our post-Brexit status. Nor would we have written our own red lines. Instead, Labour set out the objectives for, rather than the particular architecture of, any new relationship. One of the problems with the specifics of these amendments is that they define the structure, not what we want to achieve. Indeed, on the objective, I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend Lord Alli. We urgently need a deal on services if the UK economy is ever to thrive—but the particular model defined may have some shortcomings, some of which the House heard about in the debate on the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and which the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, touched on. Not only might EFTA, with its 14 million people to our 66 million, not want us and not suit us, but, because EFTA is not in the customs union, it cuts across the major amendment passed with a majority of 123 in this House on 18 April that was in favour of us being in a customs union. It also does not mention agriculture, which is so important in Ireland. At the moment, we cannot have both a customs union and EFTA.