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Brexit: Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration - Motion to Take Note (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:40 am on 6th December 2018.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative 11:40 am, 6th December 2018

The Prime Minister did that throughout the process. We will differ, but I hope that the noble Lord will agree that the responsibility for the Prime Minister is now to begin rebuilding one nation, and encouraging the scars that have been left by a divisive referendum campaign to heal. The Prime Minister has proved herself to be the epitome of the conscientious and responsible, rational politician at a time of rampant fundamentalism. Surely a responsible Opposition would welcome and support that in the public interest.

Over the course of the past 45 years our economic and political life has become inextricably linked with the European Union. Brexit has been likened to trying to remove an egg from an omelette—and so it has proved. If anybody ever thought that this was going to be easy, they know better now. But we now have a genuine opportunity to rebuild and reunite our nation. Neither a hard Brexit nor a rash decision blithely to ignore the referendum result could possibly achieve that. Either of those extremes would once again set friend against friend, colleague against colleague and young against old. I believe that the agreement preserves our national reputation as a responsible country that wishes to work constructively with our neighbours rather than one that continues to entertain unrealistic post-imperial pretentions.

It is true that work remains to be done, for instance in ensuring that our financial services industry—in many ways the jewel in our crown—will continue to flourish in the post-Brexit world. I believe that the political declaration provides a framework for the future, and those who reject the agreement and the declaration are playing with fire. If this agreement fails, there can be no guarantees of another one in its place. We would almost certainly end up either with a no-deal Brexit and losing the political declaration, or with no Brexit at all. It must not be a question of who blinks first. We should not be blinking at all. Politics is always the art of the possible, and that is why we should now embrace the British tradition of sensible and reasonable compromise which has stood us in such good stead for centuries.

We should warmly welcome this agreement and the political declaration. If we want this nation to come back together, we need to lead by example. That means that not only those of us on the Government Benches but noble Lords all around this Chamber must now rise to that challenge.