My Lords, I would like to have had more time to explore the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, that the people of Northern Ireland voted so overwhelmingly to remain—as did the Gibraltarians, interestingly.
The overall benefits of EU membership have never been fully understood. Regrettably, our island mentality has never sat well with the European vision; indeed, that is the case from many in this building. Globally, the timing could also not be less opportune. We face testing times, with many suggesting that our influence is on the wane, but I have no doubt that how we are recognised globally for our heritage—combined with the British virtues of inclusiveness, tolerance, sense of fair play and hard work, and the quality of our goods and services—will guide us through.
The Brexit risk calculus must be carefully assessed by Parliament but a Brexit without some adverse consequences is an illusion. Domestic party politics must and should step aside for pragmatism. The national interest demands it. No deal is tantamount to a cataclysm. Those who advocate walking away at this late stage from a potentially implementable plan jeopardise the process, pitching us towards the cul-de-sac of either crashing out or remaining. This cliff edge could be averted, provided a withdrawal agreement is reached this week.
Thus far, the negotiations have had an eye to the future, with both sides agreeing an implementable, sustainable plan, drawn up in the spirit of partnership and recognising the inevitable. I fear that prevarication could lead to a whole raft of dissatisfaction on some of the detail from member states and the European Parliament, thus jeopardising the referendum result, with its inevitable disruptive consequences. Once agreement is achieved, we can get on with the urgent task of addressing long-outstanding domestic policies in addition to the full and complete consideration of our long-term collective and individual relationships with the EU and its 27 member states. Those on the political extremes of the debate who advocate walking away are wrong. But, as a degree of comfort to them, it should not be forgotten that it is in the gift of the Government of the day, year on year, to introduce and implement policies that will stand our country in best stead and deliver the will of people.
The point of no return will, in essence, have been reached by the end of this week. Two years have brought us to the point where we should move forward with good grace, leaving the duration of the transition as a matter of common sense and arbitration. The country wants us to get on with it—and demands that we do so—so, with a degree of trepidation, nothing I have heard this evening has convinced me that we have any practical way forward other than accepting this withdrawal agreement as the starting point.