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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:40 pm on 6 December 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Chair, EU Justice Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Justice Sub-Committee 1:40, 6 December 2018

My Lords, the strapline that has been used to sell Brexit is “bring back control”. I cannot help but think that it was probably cynically invented by advertising men on behalf of the masters of the universe who really do want control. I am afraid that the leading lights of the Brexit movement and the people behind them—I emphasise that—are in the business of breaking up Europe as a trading bloc because it sets standards too high for the maximisation of profit. It regulates for the protection of workers and the environment and for the maintenance of standards in commodities and products. It involves collaboration on tax avoidance and restrains corporate excesses. Its members collaborate in dealing with serious crime, with matters like the exploitation of workers, and with criminal matters such as trafficking and the laundering of money.

You can understand why there are people who might be interested in getting rid of some of those regulations. For fundamentalist free-marketeers, minimising regulation is a religion, and you have only to spend time with them to see that. That is what this is about: trading without constraint. That is the attraction of World Trade Organization rules: the idea that we do not have to live by, and set, the standards in the way that we do as part of the EU bloc.

So this is in fact an elite project being sold to people who are already suffering the consequences of globalisation. Those people are already victim to the removal of safety nets and protections—austerity was used for that—but Brexit is being sold as a project of liberation, and that is dishonest. The dishonesty is not only fraudulent, it is mindlessly cruel. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft: you cannot possibly know about the lives of ordinary people if you can be sanguine about the idea of us leaving Europe altogether and turning our back on it.

To be utterly careless of the consequences for many in our population is shocking. There is now recognition across the board of the financial damage to the economy and the lives of people in Britain—particularly the poorest, as some have suggested, but also the middle classes, the majority—that would be caused by no deal but also by the deal being offered by the Prime Minister. Even the wild elements of the Brexit leadership, who want out at any cost and, as we have heard, actually want no deal, admit that there will be detrimental financial consequences but claim that it will be worth it in the end. They will say that as they sit and eat cake like Marie Antoinette. They will happily throw the poorest to the wolves. They also claim to be devoted unionists but do not seem to care very much about our relationship with Scotland and are prepared to put Northern Ireland at risk. That claim of concern for peace in Ireland is phoney, as we can see from the way that the technological fix has been promoted when we know it cannot yet work. There has to be a customs union.

Their ideological position makes them blind to good argument. How can Jacob Rees-Mogg, with a bare face, move the headquarters of his own business to Ireland to ease his pain while the rest have no such option? How can the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, apply for a French passport to ease his travel arrangements to his house in France when no such convenience is available to most of our children who want the option of working in Europe? To the leading lights of the Brexit movement, freedom means every man for himself without restraint. I say “man” advisedly because it is poor women who will suffer the most. Some 90% of single parents struggling on low wages are women. You can be sure that employment protections will disappear if there is no deal. Part-time workers, who are mainly women, are protected—they have holiday pay, maternity rights and so on—yet we hear a constant moan about the burden of those employee protections on business. That is not a burden; it is what decent societies expect of good employers. As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday, there are moral issues at the heart of this debate, and we should not forget it.

On the issue of law, I am very concerned that the withdrawal agreement put forward by the Prime Minister still does not go far enough in protecting EU citizens living in this country. What happens to their voting rights in European elections? What happens if, for example, they are posted somewhere for five years? Do they lose their opportunity of being protected as citizens here in this country? Often they have homes and families here now.

There is little reassurance on the law front. The whole business of having put a red line around the European court means that we are now setting up arbitration panels. If you examine the report, you will see that it is not suggesting that they will be totally transparent and operate like proper courts, because of course we cannot admit to their being courts due to this nonsense about red lines.

I am very concerned about the loss of the European arrest warrant. It is really important in collaboratively dealing with crime that crosses borders. Extradition processes will be difficult with somewhere like Germany, which has provisions in its constitution saying that it will not hand over its citizens to anyone else. There are other countries in Europe in the same position. The Euro-warrant rose above all that, and now we are going to be outside it.

The hypocritical behaviour of some of the leading Brexiteers betrays deep cynicism. The purpose of this project is really deregulation. It is an elite project for extreme globalisation, and the people who will suffer the most are the majority of the citizens of this country. It will line the pockets of a few. This is ideology gone mad. It is ideology that is red in tooth and claw; it says the welfare state should be cut to the bare minimum, opposes trade unionism and wants the lowest of tax levels. It has no roots in one-nation conservatism or social democracy, and as far as I am concerned we are going to see our nation suffer as a result of this blind ideological move.

I believe that many people in this country have had the opportunity, as the discussions and negotiations have unfolded, to see what this is really going to mean. I will absolutely vote against the withdrawal deal that the Prime Minister has come back with because it is not in the interests of this country, and I will certainly want to see “no deal” taken off the table. We should be taking this back to the people, and if the Prime Minister were sensible she would initiate that by saying, “Are you in favour of my deal or do you want to remain?” I hope that is the course that is eventually taken.