Brexit: Preparations and Negotiations - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:42 pm on 23rd July 2018.

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Photo of Lord Bowness Lord Bowness Conservative 8:42 pm, 23rd July 2018

My Lords, for a short time following the publication of the White Paper it appeared that after months of mere aspirational talk, a small dose of reality was beginning to dawn in government circles. It was too late in the day, there were serious omissions, such as services, but it could, perhaps, be the basis of negotiation.

Those hopes were soon dashed by Cabinet resignations and others, inside and outside government, who lined up to denounce what had been agreed in Cabinet. Of course, it is a paper for negotiation, not a final position, but if it is to go anywhere, then compromises will be required on both sides. The first required compromise concerns the attitude of the hard Brexit team which manifests itself in the ERG in the other place. I say to my noble friend Lady Noakes, who is not here now, that if there is any intransigence, it is they who are intransigent, rather than the European Union.

Our other difficulty is with the way the Brexit negotiations have been handled. We tied our own hands by rejecting the customs union, the single market, any involvement in the European Court of Justice and membership of the EEA without any idea of what we wanted or what the relationship would look like, other than some delusional idea of post-imperial gloriana.

How do the Government intend to go ahead with their proposals, given the lack of agreement in the other place? Is the answer that nothing has changed since Chequers? I hope that I will not be told that there is no problem because the Government won all but one of the votes on Monday and Tuesday last week. We know that the defeat by the ERG Brexiteers was averted only by adopting the amendments to the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill. Everybody accepts that those amendments are contradictory to the terms of the White Paper as published.

Why do the Government allow themselves to be hijacked and taken prisoner in this way? My question to my noble friend the Minister is not rhetorical. I am asking for an answer. While looking at votes, the vote lost—