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My Lords, I begin by reminding noble Lords of some of the promises that have been made. On
“The day after we leave we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want”.
“There will be no downside to Brexit, only a considerable upside”.
“The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history”.
There are plenty of other Panglossian examples of how everything was to be,
“the best in the best of all possible worlds”.
But given what has happened since, a rather better literary reference might be,
“Never glad confident morning again”,
because those statements display a facile misunderstanding of the nature of the European Union, its origins and its core values. They proceed on a simplistic assumption: “They need us more than we need them”.
We are now commemorating the end of the First World War. Some of us are already wearing poppies. That war caused terrible loss of life to the United Kingdom. Mainland Europe suffered the same but also the humiliation of invasion and occupation. A short 21 years later there was more death and destruction, more humiliation and even more occupation. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the countries of mainland Europe sought to find another way? The way they chose was to rebuild the nations of the mainland not as rivals but as partners, so they created the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 through the treaty of Paris. Its purpose was to provide the coal, the furnaces and the steel to rebuild their countries. But that success—I will not take noble Lords through every iteration of it—embraced and emboldened further co-operation until finally a single market and customs union was formed. It embodied the four freedoms, of goods, capital, services and labour; it is said that Lady Thatcher was a strong supporter of that proposal.
The creation of the four freedoms was as much about security as about economics. Countries that embrace these freedoms do not go to war with each other—they have too much to lose. These freedoms are an investment in stability; they are political as well as economic. To coin a phrase, “This whole issue is not just about the economy, stupid”. It is because of these foundations that Barnier and Brussels cannot and will not make any concession that undermines these freedoms. To do so would at the same time undermine the very stability that the European Union has been created to continue.