Brexit: Negotiations - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:19 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Quin Baroness Quin Labour 7:19 pm, 20th November 2018

My Lords, my voice is not in great shape at the moment, so I am quite relieved that I have only four minutes in which to speak. I would also like to welcome the noble Lord, Lord McCrea, to the House. I am not surprised that his speech contained some controversy, as I defy anyone to make an uncontroversial speech about Brexit in the current circumstances.

A number of questions are raised in the course of considering the situation that we face. Is the deal that we have in front of us better than no deal? The answer must be yes. Does it deliver exactly the same benefits as we currently have? The answer to that is clearly no, even though we were promised such a deal by the former Brexit Secretary, David Davis. Does the deal meet the six tests of the Labour Opposition? Clearly, it does not. Is it as good a situation as we have now as members of the EU? Clearly, it is not.

Like others, I have sympathy for the Prime Minister in her current predicament. She has worked hard in the negotiations to try to get a deal that honours the outcome of the referendum and at the same time does not let the country down too badly economically, environmentally and on co-operation with justice and home affairs and all the other areas of co-operation within the EU which are of such huge benefit to our country. None the less, she has ended up pleasing almost no one.

We have heard today from representatives of the DUP in Northern Ireland about their concerns. I know that they are very concerned not to endanger in any way the union with the UK. Yet as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, pointed out, the people of Northern Ireland voted to remain and, in many ways, membership of the EU is a good way forward for Northern Ireland. It does not break bonds between Northern Ireland and the UK, yet at the same time it allows a frictionless relationship, both in trade and other ways, between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Therefore, in many ways, it is the ideal situation.

The Prime Minister is under considerable criticism from within her own ranks, but some of that criticism seems absurd. There are complaints that the EU and the Commission are bullying. In fact—and this answers a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, who was somehow hoping that we could appeal over the Commission to the member Governments of the EU —the Commission is carrying out a mandate from the 27 countries. We should not forget that.

We also hear complaints that we will be rule-takers and not rule-makers. We can hardly say that we do not want to belong to this organisation and at the same time complain that we do not have a seat at the table when it comes to making rules.

We are in a difficult situation and, sadly, Parliament and the Government seem disunited. Therefore, finding a situation through Parliament, although that would be a good way forward, looks very unlikely. For that reason, I join with those people who feel that, given that this process was begun by a referendum, the people need the opportunity to decide whether this deal is the way forward or whether they would prefer, after all, to remain as part of the European Union.