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My Lords, “just in case” is enshrined in our culture, our legal system and our character. In home ownership, we put in an offer before we have a survey done and proceed to buy. In pay negotiations, we instruct trade union officials and then get a vote on the final deal. In consumer rights, we buy and then we have a cooling-off period. Tenancy rights are being scrutinised in this House now, and we are talking about allowing prospective tenants to have their deposits back should the tenancy not go ahead. When it comes to marriage, many get engaged and have their banns read before their wedding. In divorce, the decree nisi comes before the decree absolute. These are six straightforward examples to show that the British way of life is underpinned by “just in case”—that is, making a first decision and then having final approval when all the facts are known. There is nothing to fear from making a decision between whether to remain and the final deal now that all the facts are known—just in case.
In my belief, “just in case” is a better strategy than that adopted by the current and the previous Prime Minister, which I describe as a strategy of “making no decision at all and kicking the can down the road”. Rather than sort out the infighting in the Conservative Party over Europe, the former Prime Minister David Cameron adopted the “kick the can down the road” strategy and it ended in disaster. The current Prime Minister is on the brink of doing the same now. We now know that the most likely deal is not a final deal at all but a temporary one under which we will have a customs union for three to four years. It is another “kick the can down the road” strategy. It will allow Conservative leavers to believe that they can get fully out, it will allow Conservative remainers to believe that they can get further in, and everyone gets home for Christmas in the mistaken belief that it will all go away—but hostilities will commence again in January.
This matters because temporary deals bring uncertainty. Already over the last two years we have seen inward investment slump and domestic policy in crisis: apprenticeships have halved; violent crime is escalating; arrests are now down to one in 10—that is arrests, not convictions; universal credit is in chaos; social house building has halved; elderly people are now being looked after in acute beds in hospitals because there is little care in homes; and record numbers of homeless people are living on our streets. I say to my side that not all of this is ideological; some of it is an inability to govern in an environment where there is no certainty. Please do not let this go on for another three or four years. Please stop kicking the can down the road. Let us get a deal and put it to the people so that they have the final say, just in case.