Brexit: Preparations and Negotiations - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:32 pm on 23rd July 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Falkner of Margravine Baroness Falkner of Margravine Chair, EU Financial Affairs Sub-Committee 9:32 pm, 23rd July 2018

No, I am sorry. I am not going to give way until I have dealt with the point made by the noble Lord.

The noble Lord’s point was that if we were full members sitting at the table we would negotiate not to give away our rebate—of course, because there is unanimity. The essence of what I am saying is that the EU is making these decisions now while we are not at the table, because the decision deals with the period 2021 to 2028. We have absented ourselves because the withdrawal agreement suggests that we will leave in March 2019. His hope that we can somehow exercise a veto while we are not at the table seems somewhat futile.

I need to make progress so I will not continue on this point, but rather deal with those who believe that a Norwegian option is the answer. I have indicated to the House that I will not give way and I see the Government Whip urging me to come to my concluding remarks, so I will continue. Several noble Lords believe, as in fact the EU negotiators told us last week, that the only other option would be to remain in the single market, through membership of the EEA—in other words, the Norway option. We are told that this would give us access to everything we want. Yes, it might do so, but returning to the Norway option would involve us giving up the rebate, as we would no longer be a member of the EU, merely a member of the EEA; hence, no rebate. The resulting maths goes like this. In 2016 we paid £123 per head. Norway paid roughly £135 per head. The general belief is that Norway does not receive a great deal in receipts, as it participates in fewer programmes, so it actually pays more than we are currently paying. So those who think that the EEA is a good option need to think about how they would sell that to the people. It would be rather difficult to say that paying a bit more would result in a good deal.

I turn, in concluding, to the issue of the UK withholding the exit fee of £39 billion. My committee conducted an inquiry into Brexit and the EU budget in March 2017. We came to the view that while the UK had a moral and political obligation if it wanted a good deal, there was no jurisdiction in which the EU could challenge the UK in a court case. The negotiation on a figure was just that—a negotiation. In light of that, if the rest of the negotiation fails, I would find it odd that we would stick to just one element of it: nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. I suggest that the Government abandon this White Paper and pursue the creativity that the Foreign Secretary has called for today: either a Canada-plus-plus or another option that delivers an association agreement with enhancements as we leave.