Brexit: Negotiations - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:38 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) 9:38 pm, 20th November 2018

It is suggested that my party had the first one. I believe Harold Wilson had a referendum over the EU rather before my party, but I may be mistaken about that. I am obliged to the noble Baroness.

It is said by the noble Lord, Lord Reid of Cardowan, that we have arrived at an impasse. We have not. We have arrived at an agreement, and it is one that will go before the House of Commons in the near future.

The noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, talked about crashing out without a deal, and we have had references to car crashes and catastrophes. Such arguments are not improved by overstatement. That, with respect, is what has been happening, perhaps at both ends of the spectrum, with regard to the debate on this matter and it takes away from the factual issue. It plays into what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, referred to as the “storytelling” that can sometimes fog proper decision-making in this context.

The noble Lord, Lord Steel, also referred to “a defective deal, at great expense”. Again I remind him that the sum of £35 billion to £38 billion is not a great expense; it is a negotiated means of meeting our outstanding obligations under international law, and that is what we intend to do.

The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Belmont, also raised the question of Northern Ireland. Again I emphasise that the issue of the backstop, even if it comes into play, will be subject to the obligations of “best endeavours” and to the independent arbitration process provided for in the withdrawal agreement. I also note that there is no limitation at all upon the movement of goods from Northern Ireland to the remainder of Great Britain. That movement remains wholly unimpeded by these terms.

My noble friend Lord Bridges of Headley referred to the political declaration. Of course, as he later observed, it is not yet complete, which is why we must wait to see the outcome of further discussions regarding the political declaration in order to see where we are going to be. It is certainly not the time to anticipate what that outcome might be.