Brexit: Negotiations - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:27 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP 6:27 pm, 20th November 2018

My Lords, I know this will not be popular, but I find myself having to say to the Government, “I told you so”. I told them so in my speeches at Second Reading of the EU withdrawal Bill on 30 January this year, and at Third Reading on 16 May. I refer anyone who is interested in this sorry history to those speeches. The Government did not listen and now they, their civil servants and our political media—none of whom have ever done a deal in their lives—have come to resemble a huge flock of headless chickens. Except that headless chickens do not squawk and there is an awful lot of squawking about Brexit these days. Perhaps the analogy should be the Gadarene swine; presumably they squealed and snorted quite a bit on their way to destruction. The only trouble with that analogy is that, this time, the swine are taking the country down with them.

I suppose I should briefly repeat the obvious way forward, which every businessman who knows how to do a deal and who understands the EU can see. We should stop negotiating with the European Commission, whose only interest is to keep its project of European union afloat. We should make an offer directly to the people of Europe, through the Council of Ministers. That offer should include continued mutual residence for a period of time, and continuing free trade on our present terms but under the World Trade Organization instead of the Luxembourg court. That gets rid of the so-called Irish border problem. We should continue to offer them security through the Five Eyes in Cheltenham, and only when all that has been accepted should we agree on how much money we will give them, if any. All of those offers are much more in the interest of the people of Europe than they are of ours, so why should they not be accepted?

In conclusion, I ask the Minister not to repeat the misleading answer he has given me before when I have suggested this way forward: that we cannot resile from paragraphs 2 to 5 of Article 50, which are what force us to deal with the Commission, because we are a law-abiding country. In other words, we would be breaking the law if we did so. However, there have been some 225 unilateral withdrawals from international treaties since 1945, including by the UK, so we can do it if we have the political will and the common sense. I fear that the Minister will not agree with me, so the best that I can hope for is that we might return to this concept if the Commons votes down the present proposal and we all go back to square one. That might be the best that we can hope for now.