My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, has just given the Prime Minister an even greater challenge than she already had. For months she has been listening to the European Research Group, which has set out what effectively became her red lines. However, to find an agreement that the whole of Parliament will agree with will be somewhat difficult.
“This is a very sad place to be. But unfortunately, the future of the country and of our relationship with Europe is at stake. This deal gives us no voice, no votes, no MEPs, no commissioner”.
In the words of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, “I told you so”. Or rather, some of us suggested that leaving the European Union and ending up with an arrangement that left us somewhere with a Norwegian perspective would leave us with paying, obeying, and no saying. Therefore, rather than expanding the discussion about chickens, swine and groundhogs that we have heard over the last two and a half years, I will focus a little on some of the other questions that have been raised in the withdrawal agreement.
If the Government are really proposing that this should be voted on by the other place, does the Minister—I believe that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, will reply —agree with the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, who suggested that this agreement will secure the rights of 3 million EU citizens and 1 million UK nationals? Yesterday I was talking to a group of young people who said that they are still concerned about their rights; they included British students who are currently studying at other European universities. At the moment, the United Kingdom has guaranteed the rights of European students studying in the UK, so that if they are already here, their rights will be guaranteed until the end of their courses. Will that be true for British students studying elsewhere? As far as I can see, the 585 pages are unclear.
Will people currently living in the United Kingdom, exercising their rights as EU citizens, be able to continue to reside here without any retrospective requirements for comprehensive sickness insurance? This is one of the issues that many people residing in the UK were not aware of, yet they discovered that they could not get residency because they had not had CSI. There is a range of questions which this very comprehensive document does not include. If the Government propose that the comprehensive and thorough agreement is to be accepted, does it guarantee the rights of citizens, as we were told?
Looking forward, this agreement would give us no say. Almost every page says that there are ways in which the UK will be beholden to the European Union and subject to its laws. Very occasionally, we might be allowed to send an expert or a representative to sit at the table—they might even be allowed to speak, but certainly not vote—and on many of these issues we will be required to pay.
Have the Government worked out how much this transitional withdrawal agreement would cost the United Kingdom? Looking forward, if this is the model and the starting point for a future relationship, what is the cost likely to be? Will it in any way enable us to take back control? If not, and no deal is not an option, is it not time for us to think again, or perhaps to ask the people of the United Kingdom to think again?