Brexit: Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration - Motion to Take Note (1st Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:09 pm on 5th December 2018.

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Photo of Lord Howard of Rising Lord Howard of Rising Conservative 6:09 pm, 5th December 2018

My Lords, leaving the European Union is a political decision, not a business or a commercial one. In spite of the dishonest fear campaign, the people of this great country of ours voted to return the rule of their country to within these shores—a return to democracy, where the people of Great Britain govern themselves through their Members of Parliament: their elected representatives. The people voted this way in spite of the deliberately inaccurate forecasts promoted by various organisations anxious to continue being ruled by unelected bureaucrats in another country.

This seemed to be understood by the Prime Minister when she said that,

“no deal is better than a bad deal”.

Since then, she has stated a number of red lines. Each new red line was a signal of firm principle. Firm principles were abandoned as fast as deckchairs in a summer squall. She said that we would leave the customs union, that the integrity of the United Kingdom would be maintained and that we would no longer be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice—all abandoned, with the Prime Minister claiming that no principle had been abandoned.

It is possible that the Government believed the stream of negative stories put about by the same people who urged us to go into the ERM and then that it would be a disaster if we left the ERM, and who said that we could not survive outside the single currency and must join the euro—the Treasury was a notable exception to this foolishness. Then there were the forecasts made during the referendum that proved to be so spectacularly wrong. Now the same hobgoblins are at it again. The Bank of England is making irresponsible forecasts, the most recent described by the distinguished remainer economist Andrew Sentance as “highly speculative and extreme”. Any GCSE economics candidate submitting such duff answers would be invited to resit the examination or contemplate a different career choice.

On supply chain interruption, I know that this Government have their limitations, but will they ban the importation of essentials? It is our decision whether or not to limit imports. The CBI has simply never got anything right—indeed, it is an achievement to have got everything quite so wrong over such a long period. The Treasury’s referendum economic forecasts created a whole new dimension of getting things wrong. These elite organisations, cocooned in their metropolitan fortress, out of touch with the country, as well as being unable to accurately forecast seem unable to grasp the basic, fundamental point that the British people want to leave, and said so in the largest plebiscite ever. The people do not wish to stay attached to the EU in any fashion dreamed up by people quite out of touch with reality.

Did those negotiating either wish to sabotage what people had voted for, or have they never been near a negotiating table? They started discussions by giving away £39 billion and followed that up by accepting that the Irish border is our problem when, as no southern Irish Government would contemplate a hard border, it is the EU’s weakness and problem.

There have been comments during this debate about the horrors of no deal. There is no such thing as no deal. If nothing is agreed with the European Union, we will have a world trade deal. I remind noble Lords that, since the 1990s, UK exports to countries with which we trade under world trade terms have grown three times as fast as our exports to the EU single market. Can noble Lords imagine how that figure would multiply if the UK were free of the shackles and the ball and chain of the single market and the customs union?

With world trade there is no crashing out; there is only cashing in as we save £39 billion. Think what that could do for the people of this country. I urge the Prime Minister to abandon a plan the only achievement of which would be to befoul democracy’s name for a generation and plunge the Conservatives not just into outer darkness but so far into darkest space that they may never find their way back.