Brexit: Negotiations - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:13 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative 9:13 pm, 20th November 2018

My Lords, I draw attention to my interests as set out in the register. I personally regret Brexit, but we cannot ignore the message of June 2016 that our membership of the European Union has been rejected by the electorate and a new relationship with Europe must now be crafted.

I spend a great deal of time with the business community, above all with leaders of our financial services industry, which leads Europe and the world. The clear message from that vitally important industry is the pressing need for there to be no hiatus or vacuum, pause or cliff edge on 29 March next year. Business generally, and the insurance sector in particular, craves certainty, in order that it might plan effectively for the future, and continue to invest in the UK.

I join noble Lords who have said that the best that can be achieved by Parliament is for the House of Commons, and for us taking note, to agree to the terms of the withdrawal agreement, enabling us all to move rapidly on to discussing the vitally important terms of our future political and commercial relationship. That relationship must recognise the UK’s unique strength and experience in insurance which delivers not only much-needed revenue for the UK, but also enables many businesses across the EU 27 to obtain insurance cover that is just not available in their local markets. There has been talk of “equivalence” or “enhanced equivalence” in financial services and how vital it is for these important matters to be taken out of the political arena with a clearly defined procedure. However, for insurance companies, equivalence is extremely limited in scope, while for insurance brokers the concept does not exist at all.

In her Lancaster House speech, the Prime Minister called for:

“A bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. This agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services”.

As part of the new economic and regulatory partnership the Government are proposing, the UK and the EU would improve their domestic market access frameworks, including extending them to cover activities that generate the greatest benefits in economies of scale and scope. I would urge the Government to continue to seek as a minimum something akin to the provisions in MiFID II, or to go even further to achieve the broadest possible access.

In conclusion, I will just say this. Our reaction to this proposed agreement with the European Union will define us as a nation and as a generation. The Prime Minister’s determination to rebuild a middle ground in this divisive argument is beyond commendable; I believe it to be heroic. Indeed, it is the very outrage of the fundamentalists on both sides that persuades me fully to support, without hesitation or equivocation, the Prime Minister and her noble attempts to build one nation in place of strife. I hope that we can now unite in supporting the Prime Minister as she seeks to build upon the foundations of Brexit a close, sustainable and mutually beneficial new working arrangement between our nation and the EU 27.