Brexit: Dispute Resolution and Enforcement (European Union Committee Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:59 pm on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Chair, EU Justice Sub-Committee 5:59 pm, 17th October 2018

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response, although I find it very dispiriting. We are being told that we are replacing a court—which included a British judge and had considerable input from British lawyers— with what are being described as “bespoke mechanisms”. These many different mechanisms will fall short of giving civilians—individuals, small business people and people who would like to bring their family matters before some sort of court—the opportunity to do so. They are not going to be included. I was most disappointed to hear the Minister say that individuals will not have access to the arbitration panels or the dispute mechanism. This is a serious disappointment and will give no comfort to the family lawyers and the many different people who gave evidence before our committee.

I thank the many Members who have contributed to this debate. The quality of every contribution speaks to the great expertise of this House. I should have thought that they would have touched the Minister with the importance of what this debate is about. Law matters. At the heart of all relationships—inside nations and across borders; wherever relationships are created for trading purposes; in marriage and the ending of marriage; in making discoveries and having high standards for the medicines we share—is, inevitably, law. These are the sets of rules that we, in civilised nations, put together to regulate how we live together. At the end of this, there has to be a proper court which is respected and trusted. We are replacing a court that has had many decades of development and input of a really valuable kind from British lawyers. We are withdrawing from it and replacing it with an ad hoc set of mechanisms which I have no doubt will fall short of what the British public would expect. This is disappointing, as is hearing how little progress has been made on these issues in the course of the negotiations.

Law matters because it is the mortar that binds relationships. In creating this red line and tearing up our relationship with the European court, we are taking part in a process of destruction. We have allowed ourselves to be seduced by the popular press and hard-line Brexiteer idea that somehow all this wash of law came at us from Europe and that we were passive receivers of it. It is not true. Britain is full of great lawyers and judges who contributed collaboratively in many ways in the creation of this law. There is an idea that we have been at the mercies of it. I would ask any noble Lord in the Lobby outside and any person who wants to get themselves free of this court, which judgments do you not like? Almost invariably, the hard line Brexiteer cannot give an example of a case where they did not like the result. They give an example from a court that is not involved with the European Union but is quite separate—the European Court of Human Rights. It is that failure to understand the role played by the European Court of Justice that has been at the heart of this unsatisfactory misleading of the British public.

In thanking the Minister for answering as he has, I pay tribute to the awful school of bureaucratic obfuscation that helped to write his speech. It must pain Ministers some times to have to read what is presented to them as the answer to serious issues. I pay tribute to those on my committee. This report came out of really good advice given to us from people expert in the field. I include the noble Lord, Lord Anderson and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and those who gave evidence before us. It is sad that it is being dealt with in this cavalier way and that we are putting to one side the riches of our collaborations in trying to make good law that can help create relationships across Europe. I am sorry to hear the response we have had. I am going to keep at it, of course. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.