Brexit: Preparations and Negotiations - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:13 pm on 23rd July 2018.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 5:13 pm, 23rd July 2018

My Lords, I was fascinated to hear the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, quoting the Declaration of Arbroath, and I look forward to discussing Scottish history a little with him. The declaration, after all, was aimed at the papacy, but Scottish independence was defended primarily against the English and was maintained through trade with the Hanseatic League in the Low Countries and through the alliance with the French. But let us leave that matter.

I would like to start by talking about borders. When the Cold War ended, the Metropolitan Police approached Chatham House, for which I then worked, to ask us to convene a seminar on border control and cross-border co-operation in this transformed circumstance. Before I chaired the conference, I was briefed by various border staff who had managed the east-west border. I particularly remember what the Finns told me about the way they managed their border with the Soviet Union. They stated bluntly: “You can’t manage a border on your own. You have to co-operate with those on the other side, however difficult or hostile they may be. And the more open the border becomes, the closer the co-operation you need”.

This White Paper fails to grapple with the contradiction between unilateral insistence on sovereignty and the necessity of close and institutionalised co-operation with neighbouring states with which we share intensive economic independence, mass travel and security. We still hear hard Brexiteers say—as we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth—that we could unilaterally declare the Irish border open if we leave the EU without a deal and challenge the Irish to accept or reject it.