My Lords, it is a great joy to follow the noble Lord, because, as with so much of the work that the sub-committee has been doing, the input of experience and analysis from the legal profession has been consistently of the highest order. I add my thanks, as a member of the Justice Sub-Committee, to those of noble Lords who have already expressed appreciation of the firm, instructive and helpful leadership of that committee by my noble friend Lady Kennedy. It would also have been impossible for the committee to have done its work or to have produced a report of this order without the invaluable support of its staff and legal advisers—of course, in that I include all the support staff as well. Warm appreciation is due to all of them.
During the time the committee was doing its work I was constantly amazed at the extraordinary situation in which we find ourselves. I have never heard, from any of the distinguished witnesses we have been able to cross-examine, a shred of belief, conviction or evidence that there is any rational or logical reason for rejecting the European Court of Justice. In the nature of Europe as it is, the court is absolutely indispensable and has proved itself as such. All those who have been involved in its work constantly observe that the quality of law has been steadily improving all the time. The contribution by the British legal profession to this has been of a very high order indeed.
We are dealing with a situation based upon an emotional judgment when, with all the complexity and hard reality of the world that confronts us, what we need above all is rational, careful analysis and thinking. However, we are where we are, and it is a very sad situation indeed.
As the committee has done its work, I have grown increasingly concerned that we are moving into a situation with so much at stake and so many implications for the British people, without any clear indication yet of what will replace the court. Something must replace it. The life of Europe crosses frontiers, industry, commerce, security—in all these areas, the life of Europe is a European matter and not simply an insular matter. We must therefore have arrangements to adjudicate and supervise the process.
There is no indication of what we will be able to rely on for the future. This is what concerns me about the whole process of Brexit. Last week we debated the Good Friday agreement and its implications for the people of Ireland. This is a matter not of law and lawyers—I am not a lawyer—but of people, whose families, businesses and professional work are at stake. There is always a human dimension—that should be in big letters in front of everyone involved in the process. How will we sustain—let alone improve—the quality of life for ordinary people as a result of what we are doing?
I am finding a mixture of arrogance, prejudice and emotion which, at my age, seems altogether alien to the traditions of the Britain in which I have been formed, grown up and tried to live my life. Time is getting very short indeed. I hope that, in the remaining weeks that lie ahead—we can no longer really speak of months—all those involved, in the Civil Service, in government and in opposition, at every level, will keep in front of themselves a picture of ordinary people. They should consider ordinary professional and business people, people trying to get on with life with their families, and say to themselves, “Look at the immense responsibility we are now carrying”.
It is not a matter of which solutions we may find, we have to find them. I share with noble Lords a conviction that has grown within me throughout my years in politics; it is that, in principle and morality, what really matters is the ability to compromise in the interests of what we all want to achieve—a better society and the well-being of people. Morality comes into it when deciding on a good, constructive compromise that can help create a dynamic that leads things forward. A bad compromise would be to not allow that to happen.
There is a huge challenge for all involved. If our report has done anything, it has helped to underline that we must get some clear indications, very quickly, on what the Government propose to do.