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

No, I do not consider myself to be in a glass house. When I look at the people whose amendments were accepted, they are experts in disloyalty to Conservative Governments over the years.

In looking at the votes on the trade Bill last week, and the vote on the European Medicines Agency, which was lost, will my noble friend confirm that reports in the press that the Government might try to reverse that—notwithstanding that membership of the agency is Government policy—are not true? Will he confirm that the Government will not try to reverse that in your Lordships’ House? It is not clear how the parliamentary timetable can cope with the withdrawal Bill and the other major measures promised. The Government should give an indication to Parliament or perhaps in the delayed White Paper, which we will see if we are lucky before going home tomorrow. Will my noble friend tell us?

Whether one is a reasonable, moderate leaver or a disappointed remainer wanting to preserve as much as possible what we have, we are not in a good place. A major reassessment of our position is needed. People should be given some stark advice and, most of all, leadership. The Government promised to deliver Brexit. Recklessly they laid down the red lines to which I have referred, and now people need to be told where this is leading—the damage to the economy, unspecified costs and a less beneficial place than we are in now. So some, if not all of our red lines must go, in whole or in part. We cannot continue as we are.

Who believes that WTO rules are the answer? Perhaps my noble friend will tell the House the position regarding the objections lodged by the US, New Zealand, Canada and others—countries we are hoping to do deals with—to the proposed division of quotas on foodstuffs following Brexit. Who believes that the free trade agreement with Trump’s “America First” will be easy or advantageous? We want a wide-ranging security partnership, and part of that is the European arrest warrant. Will my noble friend the Minister please tell the House specifically how many countries are prevented by their domestic or constitutional law—their law, not EU law—from extraditing persons under a European arrest warrant to a non-EU country?

After the Statement on the White Paper, we were told that some 80% of the withdrawal agreement is settled; the remaining 20% is the most difficult. Perhaps we can hear from my noble friend what that 20% consists of. We were told a long time ago that there was agreement on EU and UK citizens’ rights but, as he reminded us, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. We will not be signing until we have a satisfactory prospective future deal, and we will not be paying any taxpayers’ money.

Should the Government not be making very clear to EU and UK citizens that their position has not been finally secured? Eight months from the planned Brexit day, nothing but nothing is certain. It will not be any good, and I hope that we will not end up trying to put all the blame for our failures on to the EU. Among the Brexit press, Monsieur Barnier is already being built up to be the villain of the piece. However, he has his mandate from the 27, which stands until they change it. We really cannot complain that, because we do not know what to do or where to go, the EU does and is somehow responsible for our own shortcomings.

How far we are from agreement has been emphasised this week by the Brexit Secretary’s statement that, if we do not get what we want as laid down, we will not pay the moneys on exit. That is a very serious statement—and I am not sure that it is a very smart negotiating ploy, either. I referred to this in my question and in the opening of this debate. A number of assurances were given that we had agreed that, and would honour it. According to the Statement in another place,

“we will pay our fair share of the outstanding commitments and liabilities to which we committed during our membership”.—[Official Report, Commons, 11/12/17; col. 26.]

Of course, I want the best deal possible for the UK. I happen to believe that it would be better if we stayed in the EU but, if that is not possible, we must keep as close as possible and investigate further the EEA/EFTA route, keeping as much as possible of the present arrangements. While the final decisions must properly remain in the other place, I shall not hesitate where appropriate, and in accordance with this House’s constitutional and parliamentary conventions, to vote to ask the other place to further consider some of these issues where necessary.