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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:46 pm on 5th December 2018.

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Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour 6:46 pm, 5th December 2018

My Lords, I voted no on 5 June 1975. A convert of Jacques Delores, I come to this debate as an avid remainer. I have read part of every one of the 585 pages of what was the draft agreement of 14 November—that version was provided without a contents list, by the way, so it took a while to work out—the detail of which we did not know on 23 June 2016. I believe that the British people should have the right to vote now, knowing the details. I would caution and plead with the Minister to answer two of the speeches I have heard today when he winds up the debate: that of the noble Lord, Lord Bew, because the Government are in dead trouble on Northern Ireland, and that of the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Dinton.

I could quote several articles in the withdrawal agreement where the UK is at a disadvantage, but I will not do so. I will cite just one. In fact, following the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, it fits. Article 62.2, regarding “Ongoing judicial cooperation proceedings in criminal matters”, sets out clearly that access to SIENA, the Secure Information Exchange Network Application, will be very limited and costly for the UK. On environmental issues alone, the ECJ has taken the UK to court 34 times, and won 30 times, to give us a safer environment from air to water. In this deal, leaving means no independent external monitoring or enforcement.

There are still those who want to leave the EU without any arrangement and trade under so-called WTO rules. Although we are a WTO member, we do not currently trade on WTO terms. In Lords Select Committees on which I have served, the Government have talked about the UK taking imports from the EU without checks because we can trust the EU. If we did this under WTO terms, it would mean that imports from WTO members would have to be treated in exactly the same way. That would mean doing away with inspections and paperwork. We would lose control of imports, including dangerous products such as contaminated food, animal and plant products, dangerous electrical goods, unsafe cars and so on. The EU would treat the UK as any other WTO member. That would mean that UK exports of products of animal origin would have to enter the EU via a veterinary border inspection post. It just so happens that two of the UK’s main agricultural routes into the EU market are Calais and the Eurotunnel, neither of which has veterinary border inspection posts.

The Prime Minister is always going on about leaving being good for our money, our borders and our laws. Let us look at those points in reverse order, beginning with our laws. Between 1997 and 2013, I served in six government departments, including four years in MAFF and Defra and the Food Standards Agency. I was often at the end of complaints about EU food laws. However, not once in those 16 years did anyone suggest a specific law to abolish. When the coalition Government went through the balance of competences exercise—that is, UK versus EU—they buried over 30 reports because they all came down in favour of the status quo.

The second point is our borders. Within the current EU rules, UK Governments, Labour and Tory, have had the power to restrict access by people from the EU to the UK under article 7 of the EU citizens’ rights directive. It is used by more than one EU member state. Why has our Home Office never used these restrictions? Instead, it just prattles on about freedom of movement. There are opportunities to take that action within the existing rules.

The third point is our money. I went to a Hacked Off lecture last week by the broadcaster James O’Brien. It was brilliant. He had an interesting tabloid-esque approach to this—that is not meant as an insult. The cost of the EU is 39p per person per day in the UK. That is taking a net contribution of £9.4 billion from a population of 66 million over the days in the year. It is exactly 39p per person per day. It is not massive in the way that the Prime Minister puts it across.

Finally, the Government’s finance papers on Brexit assume trade deals all over the world, including the food-poisoning capital of the western world, the United States of America, where food poisoning rates are 10 times the rate per head of population compared with the UK. I have often cautioned in this House and in committees that the attack on chlorine-washed chicken is an animal welfare issue rather than a food safety issue. “Why the need to wash?” is the question. The answer is easy—it is because of the high level of disease in production plants and chicken-killing plants.

However, new research published last week in a paper by the experts at the Society of Applied Microbiology, “Food Safety after Brexit”, discloses that,

“chlorinated water does not effectively disinfect even salad leaves and can even render harmful bacteria as undetectable in routine testing methods”.

That must be part of the explanation for the food health problems in the United States, which has major salmonella outbreaks. It has just recalled 6.5 million pounds of raw beef due to salmonella. Hundreds of people die each year from salmonella in the United States—450 in 2016. Over the 10 years from 2005 to 2015, nobody in England and Wales died from salmonella. The EU has protected us from this. That is what it is all about. It has protected our people and made them safer. The draft agreement does not do that. For that reason, it should be rejected. I rest my case.