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

My understanding, as I said before, is that the Prime Minister is going to be meeting with Mr Juncker in the very foreseeable future and that the discussions are going to be taken forward. As to when the final political statement will be concluded, I cannot give a specific date but the intention is, as previously stated, that it should be available by the end of November. I cannot say when it will come before Parliament; at this stage I cannot give a definitive date from the Dispatch Box, but I am quite willing to write to the noble Lord if I have any further information on that point.

The noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, mentioned Article 50 and has previously observed that he had a hand in its drafting. As a general rule of law, one does not submit subjective evidence over the construction of a contractual provision, and there are very good and compelling reasons for that. However, I note what he has to say about the idea of the EU 27 being prepared to stop the clock. With great respect, it appears to me that the indication is: “Let us get on with it. Let us go forward. We have an agreement for withdrawal. Let us implement that. Let us then address how you are going to leave”—because we are going to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019.

The noble Lord, McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown, made his maiden speech today. I thank him for that and compliment him on his contribution to the debate. It was suggested that he should not have used a maiden speech to be controversial, but I would not take issue on that. It is a matter of deep concern to the noble Lord and his fellow Peers from Northern Ireland that we should address the matter of the border and the integrity of the union in this context, and I fully understand his concerns, but I cannot accept that Northern Ireland is either a hostage or a sacrifice in the circumstances. Far from it: our concerns lie in maintaining the union. In so far as he suggested that a hard border was a fictitious idea and could be managed, I do not disagree with him. That is one reason why we anticipate that the backstop will not be required. But, as it is, the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have spoken as a United Kingdom, and their decision is that we should leave the European Union.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, pointed out that the role of Parliament must be remembered. Like him, perhaps, I am a Burkean on the issue of representative democracy. He said, and I agree, that there should be no running back to the people. It is for Parliament to consider the present withdrawal agreement. It is for Parliament to accept or reject that withdrawal agreement. It is for Parliament to address the consequences of its actions, and it answers to the people in a representative democracy. I agree with much of what he said about the process that we should be going through in this context.