Brexit: Negotiations - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:17 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Lord Green of Deddington Lord Green of Deddington Crossbench 9:17 pm, 20th November 2018

My Lords, the advantage of being tail-end Charlie is that most of the key points have already been made, which also means that one can attempt to weigh them up. I am with those who are seriously disappointed about the outcome of these negotiations. I believe that the Government have been naive and that the Commission has been deeply cynical. We now risk being not just out of Europe but run by Europe; indeed, we risk being trapped in Europe, as my noble friend Lord Kerr of Kinlochard so vividly explained. Yet, as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, mentioned, even Moldova has a break clause.

We do not yet have a final deal, and the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, explained the importance of the outline political declaration which is still being negotiated. But at present, as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, described, this deal does not deliver on the referendum. It leaves us half in, half out, and possibly trapped. So if this is effectively the final deal and if it fails to get through Parliament—the House of Commons—I find myself persuaded, rather to my surprise, that we should look again at a second referendum. I do not mean a people’s vote, but a second referendum. Indeed, that has been the sense of the House because a remarkable number of noble Lords have been moving towards that conclusion.

It is not that I believe entirely the cries of woe about no deal. There is perhaps an element of Project Fear mark 2 in that, but there are clearly risks and this deal, frankly, is nothing like what people were offered during the Brexit campaign. I simply do not see how that course could be pursued without a renewed mandate from a referendum. The answer may well be the same but we need it as soon as possible.

I conclude with a matter which is of considerable importance but has hardly been mentioned; indeed, it was barely mentioned in either the withdrawal agreement or the draft political declaration. Of course, I am referring to immigration. I am very suspicious; I foresee the risk of the skills-based system that the Prime Minister mentioned being widened under pressure from the European Union when we get down to a negotiation on trade, where our hand is very weak. That pressure could well be reinforced by the many employer groups whose members have been making substantial profits from low-cost labour from Europe and, dare I say it, substantial savings on the training of British workers. I will not go any further into that issue but I will just say this: if Ministers are not careful, the outcome of this enormous process could well be very little reduction in net EU migration. If that is the result, the Government will pay a very high price with public opinion—and rightly so, in my view.